Pocock still under injury cloud as London week begins

Beth Newman Profile
by Beth Newman in Japan

David Pocock sat out the Wallabies' first London training session as he races the clock to be fit for Saturday's showdown at Twickenham.

Pocock was subbed in the 54th minute of Australia's 26-7 win over Italy last weekend and will be monitored closely in training this week as he vies for a spot in the final Test of 2018.

The no. 8 sat out training on the Wallabies' first day at London, while big name backs Israel Folau and Bernard Foley were also on the sideline during the open part of the team's session, though that duo was simply understood to be on light duties after a long season.

Halfback Will Genia speaking on Monday morning in London said it would be a call for the medical staff to make but the star backrower looked “pretty busted” after the game.

“Not too sure (of his prognosis),” he said.

“He's pretty busted walking around so I guess that'll be a call by the doctor and the medical staff.”

Pocock is the only major injury concern for the Wallabies, with rookie Jordan Petaia expected to be fit after a hamstring injury ruled him out of a possible debut against Italy.

Lock Rory Arnold, who fractured his eye socket in training last week, and development player Isi Naisarani who won't be eligible for the Wallabies until April 2019, both flew home on Monday night with no chance of playing the England Test.

Rory Arnold will head home on Monday night. Photo: Getty ImagesWhether Pocock plays will be a talking point all week for fans and pundits but inside the Wallabies camp, all the focus will be on taking a win in their final Test of the year.

The Wallabies come into the England game with just a 4-8 record from their 12 Tests this season and a loss this weekend would be their sixth in a row against England, dating back to 2016.

Neither Australia nor England has won six in a row in this rugby rivalry dating back over a century but Genia said that was no psychological barrier this weekend.

“It's not something I think about, so from a personal perspective I don't particularly think there's a hurdle or anything like that, it's always a massive occasion coming and playing England at Twickenham,” he said.

“It's one of those games you always look forward to on your calendar. For me, it's up there with playing the All Blacks, England at Twickenham. It's certainly a game I'm looking forward to.”

Genia, who was based in France through the 2015-16 and 2016-17 seasons, only featured in one of those five straight losses but said he felt England had used their physicality against the Wallabies well in those matches.

“I’d probably say they have played to their strengths,” he said.

“That’s being physical, make sure they play the territory battle really well and they don’t shy away from that which is something that certainly I admire.

“They know their strengths, they stick to it and they play a winning brand of rugby.

“That’s something I can see in his (Eddie Jones’) time with them.”

He is expecting much of the same again from an England side that is keen to finish their autumn with a statement after wins over South Africa and Japan and a tight loss to the All Blacks so far.

“I had a brief look at the game against the All Blacks last night just doing a bit of preview and just that physicality, it's something that's a huge strength of theirs because of the forward pack but also for someone like (centres) Ben Te'o and Manu (Tuilagi) might be back, so they're going to come with that sense of physicality,” he said.

“I think also, having someone like (Owen) Farrell in the team, they dictate the game really well with their kicking.

“I think that's an area they really outplayed us last year when we played them, they played conditions really well, they played territory and field position really well, put us under pressure so I think there'll be areas for us to make sure we focus and I guess negate as well.”

Genia has been very vocal about his faith in the Wallabies setup throughout a turbulent season and dismissed the suggestion it had been tough to be a Wallaby in 2018.

“Not at all mate, I love it,” he said.

“It’s part and parcel of the job – you win, you lose, you cop it from the fans and media, you take it, but I love it.

“The biggest thing we’re learning at the moment is just resilience and working hard on trying to build that consistency.

“There is never a day I have questioned it being hard or anything like that, not at all.”

While Genia will almost certainly be picked to start in what will be his 100th Test, the contest to be his deputy could be a tight one.

Genia was full of praise for last weekend’s debutant Jake Gordon, who was solid in his first Test outing, picked to start ahead of NSW teammate Nick Phipps.

“I thought he played really well,  really well,” he said.

“(He was) thrown in the deep end in the sense that he gets that starting job, his service was crisp, he was getting to the breakdowns quickly, he was moving the ball.

“It was nice to see him get the opportunity and actually play an extended period of time as opposed to maybe coming off the bench for a little bit of time.

“I was really happy for him, I thought he played really well.”

The Wallabies take on England at Twickenham on Saturday November 24, kicking off at 3pm local, Sunday 2am AEDT, LIVE on beIN Sports and SBS.