When David Pocock was on his road back from a second knee reconstruction, he wasn’t thinking about games like Saturday’s against England.
But that every day that he put into his rehab, after both his serious knee injuries the past two seasons, has brought him back to the World Cup gives him confidence that he can grab this opportunity.
Whatever mentality he has brought out of his extended injury layoffs was clearly a good one, with Pocock the Brumbies’ player of the year and runner-up in the John Eales Medal this year.
That form has continued into his World Cup, with a man of the match showing at number eight in the Wallabies’ first pool game.
Pocock pulled off one of the most incredible individual performances in World Cup history in Australia’s 2011 quarter final and since then his national role has been transformed.
The 27-year-old said he wasn’t preoccupied with fanciful thoughts while he was working to get his knee right but he was reaping the rewards of that process.
“I think when you’re in that space it was very much focused on the here and now and the improvement and just trying to get back to earn the right to have this opportunity (to play for Australia),” he said.
“Rather than thinking about it back then I guess it gives you a lot of confidence in all the work you’ve put in and how hard you’ve worked to get here.
“So I think it just gives you confidence.”
It was the first Bledisloe Cup match in August that signalled to coach Michael Cheika that this was a successful fusion but Pocock said there wasn’t a particular moment that cemented it to him.
“I mean as a player you’ll play any number to get out there and that’s very much been my approach," he said.
“I’m happy to play whatever role that Cheik thinks is best.
“I have complete trust and confidence in his decisions so it’s an exciting challenge.
“To go out there and represent Australia with an 8 on your back, pretty proud to get out there.”
His on-field other half, Hooper, said the pairing was still a work in progress but a project that both were ready to keep building.
“I have had a laugh when we’ve ended up in the same ruck going for the same ball but I think we’re doing our job when we’re doing that,” he said.
“I’ve loved being on the back of watching Dave do some of his work. He was outstanding against Fiji turning over some of the pill there.
And while their names have been melded by many a rugby fan in this tournament, Hooper was quick to say that they’re not simply a package deal.
“I think what Cheik’s (coach Michael Cheika) done is about empowering the players to do what they’re good at,” he said.
“We’re not the same player...though we play in the same position.
“We’ve played different roles our whole career. It’s great that we’re here now and we’re able to work together and it’s still a great thing.”