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Lions match-up: Sam Warburton v two potential Australian number 7s

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By ARU Media Unit


Sam Warburton

David Pocock

Michael Hooper


Openside flanker


Openside flanker










5 October 1988

23 April 1988

29 October 1991






2009 v USA, Chicago

2008 v New Zealand, Hong Kong

2012 v Scotland, Newcastle






10 (2T)

20 (4T)


It’s official, the Qantas Wallabies next fixture following this weekend’s final Spring Tour Test against Wales will be against the iconic British & Irish Lions in Australia. 
As the excitement builds to the highly anticipated 2012 British & Irish Lions Tour next year we take a look at one of the most salivating potential match-ups – the number 7. 
Many a Rugby legend has been born out of playing at openside flanker for their country, including the likes of George Smith, Ritchie McCaw and Neil Back, and the upcoming Lions Tour may create yet another hero with the number 7 on his back. 
The clash of the sevens, on a Tour that’s been 12 years In the Making, will be highly anticipated by both Lions and Qantas Wallabies supporters alike, especially considering it will most likely feature the likes of Sam Warburton, David Pocock and Michael Hooper.
In the lead up to this weekend’s Test at Millennium Stadium before Australia go head-to-head against the best from England, Ireland, Scotland and Wales next year, we analyse the prospective face-off between Warburton and Australia’s tag-team , Pocock and Hooper.
Sam Warburton
A product of Whitchurch Comprehensive School, Sam Warburton has Captained Wales at Under 19 and Under 20s level. He led the Welsh Under 19 side to fourth place in the IRB World Championships in Belfast in 2007 and had similar success with the Under 20s in the inaugural IRB Junior World Championship in Wales in 2008. 
Warburton played regularly at Glamorgan Wanderers in the Principality Premiership and has been a member of the Cardiff Blues squad since 2008/09. He made his senior debut for Wales in 2009 when he ran on as a replacement in the match against the USA at Toyota Park in Chicago.
The 2009/10 season with the Blues gave Warburton plenty of opportunity and his strong display within the tournament earned him a call up to the Wales squad for the November international Tests against Australia, New Zealand, Argentina and Samoa.
Following a bout of injuries in November 2010 Warburton continued his strong form at international level through to the Six Nations and was named man of the match in a crucial win against Scotland in Murrayfield.
Warburton was then handed the Welsh Captaincy reigns during his country’s 2011 Rugby World Cup preparations. His first match as Captain ended with a loss to the Barbarians in Cardiff, however he managed to reverse the result in his next two outings with back-to-back wins against England, . Warburton’s form during the second Test was so impressive he was named Man-of-the-Match.
His continued form during 2011 made him Wales’ first choice number seven and was the reason behind his name being mentioned alongside David Pocock and Richie McCaw. 
His hard work off the field, which delivered him such consistency on the field were rewarded when he became the youngest player to Captain his country at the 2011 Rugby World Cup where he continued to prove a key figure in the team’s run to the semi-finals.
Following the Rugby World Cup Warburton returned home to Captain Wales against the Qantas Wallabies for the final Test of the year at Millennium Stadium.
Although he started 2012 with injury, which affected his Six Nations campaign , he was a key part of the Welsh side, leading Wales to an historic Grand Slam victory, with his maiden Try for Wales in their Test match against Italy.
A favourite of most on and off the field Warburton won the Rugby Union writer’s club personality of the year in January of 2012.
Warburton’s ability to create quick ball for his side and slow down opposition possession could be crucial against Australia during next year’s British & Irish Lions Tour. Only injury or suspension could see this star number seven left out of the Lion’s Touring party.
At just 24 years of age, Warburton has Captained his country 18 times and is posed as a favorite for the 2013 Lions leading role. 
David Pocock
After leaving his birth town of Zimbabwe, David Pocock’s family moved to Queensland where he became a member of Queensland Rugby. He attended school at Brisbane’s Church College where he initially played inside centre in the team’s backline. 
An Australian schools representative in 2005, Pocock was ear-marked as a leader from an early age. He led sides to Britain twice in 2008, firstly with the Australian team for the Under-20 World Cup, and then with a Western Force Development squad. 
Pocock was first introduced to the Qantas Wallabies three years after moving to the Western Force when he was included on the 2008 Tour of Hong Kong and Europe. He followed the legendary George Smith to become the starting openside flanker at the end of the 2009 Tri Nations tournament. 
In 2010 Pocock was the only player, other than Rocky Elsom, to start in all 15 Tests of the season, setting a new record for the number of Tests played in a year. That same year he received his first nomination for the IRB Player of the Year Award, becoming a two-time nominee the year later. 
Considered Australia’s best openside flanker, Pocock followed in his predecessor, George Smith’s footsteps to claim the 2010 John Eales Medal, the fourth time the award had been won by an openside since its inception in 2002..
His status as one of the game’s best openside flankers and his ability to lead from the front on and off the field lends great weight to him taking on the captaincy reigns on a more permanent basis in the future.
His first role at the helm of Australia was for their record 60-11 demolition of the Barbarians at Twickenham in November. 
2012 shaped as a stellar year for Pocock, becoming Australia’s 79th Test Captain after a hamstring injury ruled then captain, James Horwill. However all didn’t go according to plan with Pocock sidelined with a knee injury himself, ruling him out of the majority of the inaugural Castrol EDGE Rugby Championship. 
His initial experience as Captain at Test level was for the Qantas Wallabies’ maiden Test match at Hunter Stadium in Newcastle, against Scotland, which featured near cyclonic weather. 
Difficult to move over the ball due to his low body position and strength, Pocock possesses a superb sense of anticipation, which allows him to time his involvements at the breakdown to perfection. This skill is highlighted by his game statistics, where he invariably makes the clean steals in the contact engagements.
One of a number of potential Captains for the Qantas Wallabies next year, the talented openside flanker will no doubt add to his tally of Test Caps during the British & Irish Lions Tour in 2013 and will continue to climb to the first milestone of 50 Test caps.
Michael Hooper
Hooper was snapped up by the ACT Brumbies and slotted in to their Runners development program in his first year out of school. The 18 year old had only been in Canberra a few months before he was called up to play for the Brumbies against the Chiefs at Canberra Stadium in 2010.
He has been selected in the Australian Under 20s twice, once in 2011 and again in 2012. His performance was duly recognised winning last year’s Under 20s Player of the Year Award at the John Eales Medal. 
This year was Hooper’s third in Super Rugby yet his first as a regular starter which saw him consistently toping the ACT Brumbies tackle count and proving to the competition that he was not just one of the Brumbies best performers but the tournaments’. 
In 2013 Hooper is set to join the NSW Waratahs in Super Rugby, while his role at the Brumbies will be filled by David Pocock, after he decided to move from the Western Force at the conclusion of last season. 
Hooper returned to the John Eales Medal awards this year to collect his second award in as many years claiming the the Rookie of the Year, a significant feat considering 12 new players were given Test caps in 2011/12.
Hooper was thrust into his first Test starting role opposite Richie McCaw at Eden Park after David Pocock suffered an injury during the opening Bledisloe Cup Test this year. His impact was such that the influence of one of the world’s premier openside flankers was barely missed by the Wallabies. 
He became a key player for Australia during the later stages of 2012 that he won three of the five Player of the Day awards during this year’s inaugural Castrol EDGE Rugby Championship in which he started. 
As one of the best ball scavengers in the game, Hooper proved a strong attribute during the June 2012 Castrol EDGE Wales Tour, making a telling contribution off the bench during Australia’s critical 27-19 win over Wales in the first Test of the Qantas Wallabies 3-0 series whitewash over the Six Nations champions.
With only 6cm difference between their height and a 5kg difference between their weight, whether Wales’ Sam Warburton faces Hooper or Pocock, it is sure to be an arm wrestle. 
Against Pocock, Warburton has slightly less experience, yet against Hooper he may not have as much youth. Like Pocock, Warburton has the potential and experience to carry the Captaincy reigns during next year’s Lions Tour and has shown that, as a young international, he can bear the weight of an international Test Tour whilst producing on the field.
Lions and Aussie fans alike will be spoilt with a real Rugby spectacle should Warburton, Pocock and/or Hooper run on the field together during the 2013 British & Irish Lions Tour.