Pocock focused on task at hand

The Rugby Championship
Beth Newman Profile
by Beth Newman

David Pocock is starting to tie things up ahead of his one-year sabbatical, but there’s plenty to play out before he vacates the premises temporarily.

Pocock will be part of the Wallabies fold for the rest of 2016, before heading to the Panasonic Wild Knights in Japan’s Top League for the back half of the season, leading into a season’s sabbatical.

The 58-Test Wallabies forward said while he wasn’t preoccupied with the final countdown, he wanted to take advantage of the remaining outings.

“I haven't given it too much thought, to be honest,” he said.

“I think it's pretty intense and you just want to try and be in the moment and enjoy [it]. 

Pocock doesn't have too much time to relax just now. Photo: ARU Media/Stu WalmsleyThe 28-year-old said he had begun to lock in some activities for next year, but his focus was still firmly on the Wallabies.

“I’m keeping the planning a little bit loose but I’ve got a couple of things locked in but I'm sure there's plenty of time," he said.

“I’ll probably start tying a lot together in December, when there’s a bit more time to do it.”

Pocock’s departure is one that leaves an open door with few obvious choices to walk through it for the Wallabies in 2017.

Lopeti Timani looms as the most likely successor, with the Rebels utility impressing in his first Wallabies camp, while his Melbourne teammate Sean McMahon has slotted into Pocock's role in June.

Sean McMahon replaced Pocock at 8 earlier this year. Photo: ARU Media/Stu WalmsleyMcMahon hasn't been part of Australia's Bledisloe squads, though, and with the potency of the Wallabies' dual openside structure blunted in June and through the Bledisloe Tests, Wallabies coach Michael Cheika will have an interesting conundrum next year.

That debate aside, the Wallabies have not shied away from player turnover this season and he said the influx of new faces was an 'exciting' one.

"It is exciting for Australian rugby in the long-term," he said.

"You certainly think back to your first taste of it and your first year in the squad and getting your first game.

"It's incredibly exciting times so they definitely bring energy and excitement to training, which is what you want.

"We've all got a role to play to be supporting those guys and ensuring that they reach their potential at this level."

Lopeti TImani has impressed in training. Photo: ARU Media/Stu WalmsleyTheir situation is not dissimilar to that of this weekend’s opponents, a Springboks side with a 1-1 ledger in the Rugby Championship and a changing landscape in which to play, with more responsibility on players who have in the past had more senior figures to rely on.

“I think both teams are looking to bring new blood in,” Pocock said.

“At the moment, it makes things a bit tough, particularly with Matt Giteau and Adam Ashley-Cooper going back to France, there's a lot of experience there that you'd hope they'd be able to pass on to younger players.

“I'm sure both teams are working really hard and looking to this weekend to try and put out a better performance, or better all-round performance.”

The Springboks feel they're in a similar phase of the ruby cycle to the Wallabies. Photo: Getty ImagesSpringboks assistant coach Mzwandile Stick echoed Pocock's view that there were a number of parallels between the sides.

"I'm not too sure about where they are at the moment but one thing I know for sure is that they're also in the building phases as a team where they've got a couple of new players, they've used already this year about seven new players in their squad," he said.

"They're also in the building phase, similar to the situation where we are at the moment."

For the Wallabies, talk of preparation and process has dominated the aftermath of a poor Bledisloe campaign, elements that were near automatic last year but now seem among their most problematic.

Pocock is looking forward to one of his last home Tests before his rugby sabbatical. Photo: ARU Media/Stu WalmsleyPocock said returning to that foundation was a priority heading into their pivotal Rugby Championship clash, one that could claw back some ground in the way of fan respect after a six-Test losing streak.

“That's the big thing for us is when we go out there, we're representing all rugby supporters in Australia and we want to put in performances that they're proud of,” he said.

“I guess all you can do is turn up and do that and the result will take care of itself.

“I think going back to that sort of preparation and really enjoying our time together, working really hard and come Saturday putting in a performance that people are proud of.”

As far as the wind up ahead of his mini-break, this weekend’s Test shapes as extra special for Pocock, against the team he idolised as a child in his adopted Australian hometown.

“It is special. My family, all my family's still here in Brisbane, so I love coming back to play here and against the Springboks, it's a pretty good opportunity," he said.