STAR flanker David Pocock has revealed he cancelled an off-season trip to Zimbabwe due to ongoing “grief” with his neck, and the concern is so serious doctors have raised post-rugby impacts.
Pocock finished 2018 with a swag of awards but the 30-year-old is also carrying a very stiff and sore neck after suffering a series of injuries through the year.
The outstanding flanker, who added the RUPA medal of excellence to his John Eales medal on Wednesday, missed the Wallabies’ last Test of the year against England after hurting his neck against Italy, and Pocock earlier missed the Australian’s win over the Springboks in September with the same issue.
Throughout the year, Wallabies and Brumbies officials repeatedly expressed their concern and frustrations about rivals trying to move Pocock by his head and neck at the breakdown.
While Pocock diplomatically sidestepped questions about blame, he admitted he was still feeling the impact of his latest injury on the Spring Tour almost a month ago.
“It’s still pretty sore, to be honest,” Pocock said at the RUPA awards lunch.
“I usually go away for December, try to get back to Zimbabwe, but this year I decided I wanted to spend the time here getting my body right for next year.
“I recognize that next year is hopefully my biggest year of rugby, I want to be playing my best rugby I’ve played and physically be able to do that.
“I’ve got a fair bit of concern in the neck, it’s caused me a fair bit of grief. I actually missed a game against South Africa. So, your concerned about not being able to play and in the back of your head when you talk to medical professionals, they’re trying to remind you about life after rugby.
“It’s something that I guess I’m going to have to really manage and be smart with and I don’t really know what it looks like at the moment.”
Pocock said he didn’t anticipate missing the start of the Super Rugby season in February.
When asked whether he felt his neck injuries were the result of opposing players targeting him, Pocock largely dead-batted but pointedly alluded to Brumbies officials sending in clips earlier in the year of him being subjected to neckrolls.
Nothing was done by SANZAAR, and World Rugby has also repeatedly washed their hands of the problem.
“There were a number of occasions where the Brumbies tried to cite people this year,” he said.
“So, it’s kind of happening a lot. I get that there’s plenty of action at the breakdown and sometimes it’s very hard to control what you’re doing. Personally, you know your neck’s pretty sore after games.”
Despite World Rugby’s self-proclaimed zero tolerance on dangerous play on the head-and-neck, World Rugby boss Brett Gosper denied Pocock was “particularly targeted” when he was in Sydney this year.
Asked if he would like World Rugby to take a stronger stance on neckrolls and other dangerous contact in the region, Pocock said: “As a player it’s probably not territory you want to venture into. The refs are doing the very best job they can do as players are and I’ve got a huge amount of respect for referees.”