Wallabies "wait and see" on Pocock injury, Ashley-Cooper in the mix for a Twickenham berth

Beth Newman Profile
by Beth Newman

Veteran utility Adam Ashley-Cooper has thrown himself well in contention to play against England next week but coach Michael Cheika says it will be a “wait and see” situation for injured backrower David Pocock.

It was initially thought Pocock exited the game for a HIA but Cheika said post-match the no. 8 had copped a hit to the neck.

Wallabies officials were positive about his condition in the hours after the game but Cheika said he would be monitored closely during the next week.

“He's obviously got a pretty nasty stinger on his neck,” Cheika said post-match.

“It was giving him the burns down the arm for quite a while. We'll just wait and see what happens and see how he recovers over the next couple of days.”

Ashley-Cooper came on the Spring Tour with little expectations around how much he would play and his selection against Italy was used as a litmus test of where the 34-year-old sat.

Cheika had plenty of praise for the 34-year-old after the game and said he had certainly pushed his case for an outing against England at Twickenham.

“He's definitely in the mix, yeah,” he said.

“We'll have a look and see what we want to do for next week but definitely (he’s a chance).

“The idea was to give him a chance to get back into the swing, give him a game in this `game here to have an opportunity to put his cards on the table and now we'll see how the selection goes for next week.

“He actually showed some good pace when he made a break, he’s communicating really well with the outside players,” he said.

“Probably playing in a position less familiar at the back after Jordan had to pull out.

“He would've played up in the front line defensively, so he was smart enough to be able to make those adjustments and in attack I thought he did some really good things, shifted some nice ball and then made a few good line breaks.”

Ashley-Cooper was one of a number of players who will give Cheika food for thought in the next week - halfback Jake Gordon was serviceable in his first outing and Matt To'omua had arguably his best Test since returning to the national setup playing at 10.

Australia's was a win built on some solid defence, led by skipper Michael Hooper who had an immense 18 tackles, that kept Italy to just one try despite passages of serious pressure on their own line.

Cheika said that defensive effort under adversity, with prop Scott Sio sent to the bin in the 60th minute as Australia were defending their own line, was a major positive.

“We stuck solid, even when we had penalty advantages against us, we stayed at them, we didn't want to let them over the line,” he said.

“We were a little bit disappointed with how we gave up the try.

“It was pretty simple - we threw a ball behind a back and just a bad bit of execution and the guy's running the length of the field to score.

“We could've been off the back of two games without a try being scored against us. Something we've been focusing on as a team to improve.

“Even there where it's really quite tight you've got to  fight hard and I thought we fought very hard down there. Then we lost a player and we were able to resist as well.”

While their defence was strong, Australia left some chances on the table in attack and Cheika said that would be a focus heading into their final Test against England.

“I think we created a few things in attack, we had a couple of chances we could've been slicker on the finishing, maybe one or two of those,” he said.

“Where we're at right now, we've got to keep grinding, keep going at it, do the things that we've been working on to do well best we can and keep bringing it.

“I know you say a win's a win but there was a lot about that win around some of the basics of the game considering the situation of the season that I was very pleased with.

A win in the penultimate Test of 2018 lifted a little weight off the Wallabies and captain Michael Hooper said the emotions were simple after the game.

“I feel good mate, I feel great,” he said.

“We won, we grinded, (in) the change rooms people are smiling.

“It’s a great reward for some hard work.

“It’s important to enjoy these and reward ourselves with a win against our name because we haven’t had a huge amount this year.

“It is good to take these forward and run with the momentum into next week while digesting this and enjoying this is really important.”

Australia takes on England on Saturday November 24, kicking off at 3pm local, Sunday 2am AEDT, LIVE on beIN Sports and SBS.