Pocock ready to repay faith on and off the field

Beth Newman Profile
by Beth Newman

David Pocock is an on-field beast, but the value the returning Australian flanker brings to the Wallabies might be just as critical off the pitch.

Wallabies coach Michael Cheika has spoken often about the value of diversity in his squads and Pocock will bring even more of that on his return to Australian rugby.

The 29-year-old went through a leadership course in the USA and was among the leaders at Panasonic Wild Knights in the Japanese season.

As well as those, Pocock spent much of his sabbatical running his grandfather’s Zimbabwe farm, an experience that gave him a very different look at leadership.

“It was certainly an experience working on a farm where you’re, people are looking to you for direction and you’re managing 20 staff every day, that was a steep learning curve,” he said.

“In Japan, just different ways of trying to include and empower people outside of the leadership group because ultimately in rugby everyone’s a leader in some way.

“It’s getting guys to recognize that and actually take it on and grow in their contribution at the right time.

“Different environments but hopefully it will translate.”

Pocock is keen to make an impact on his return, aware of the criticism his unique deal received from the Australian public and admitted his time away was a gamble in some ways.

"I don’t think it’s for everyone and it’s definitely a risk," he said.

"We’ll see if it pays off."

Wallabies skipper Michael Hooper said the side’s next generation would benefit from watching Pocock go about his business.

“Off the field his personality type, his attention to detail, he treats his body like a temple,” he said.

“These little things are great for some of the younger players to see and have him mentor and be a really good leader around that just by doing the things he’s doing.

“So, I think it’s fantastic to see a guy of his professionalism , experience and good nature back in the team.”

Michael Hooper is looking forward to having David Pocock back in the fold. Photo: Getty ImagesWithout Pocock in the mix, some of that next group began to take the next step and Hooper said that development was the flipside of the sabbatical coin.

“We got to see Jack Dempsey (debut) and the growing of Sean McMahon in the Aussie  jersey,” Hooper said.

“It’s a double edged sword isn’t it and those guys can add so much more experience and push each other more.

“While he was away, it was good that you get to breed and blood other players.”

Certainly Pocock doesn’t feel like he has any mortgage on a backrow spot in 2018, having just returned to the Australian scene.

“Guys are playing well,” he said.

“When you look at the back row, how much depth there is there, it’s always going to be a challenge (to win that spot), so that’s going to be exciting.

Cheika as well said a Pocock-Hooper Test reunion was far from guaranteed, with plenty of rugby yet to play.

“There’s a few young backrowers this year who are going to have a bit to say I think,” he said.

“Some who have been on the fringe of our team and some who haven’t been involved at all that are going to have a bit to say about the back row before we just give the jerseys out.”