Pocock set to miss Africa trip for Wallabies' TRC opener

The Rugby Championship
by Iain Payten

David Pocock is all-but certain to miss the Wallabies’ first Rugby Championship trip to South Africa with the injured Aussie flanker to be kept in cotton wool to prevent further set-backs.

But James O’Connor could be sighted at his first Wallabies training in six years in Brisbane sometime this week, if a deal to return to Australian rugby is finalised.

The Wallabies have moved camp to train in Brisbane this week after launching their Rugby Championship and World Cup campaign quietly in Sydney last week.

Michael Cheika’s side take on the Springboks in Johannesburg on July 21 in the first clash of a shortened Rugby Championship, followed by clashes against Argentina (Brisbane, July 27) and two against the All Blacks in Perth (August 10) and Auckland (August 17).

Cheika is set to name a 31-man squad for the Africa trip this week, and the Wallabies will leave for South Africa at the weekend, a week early, to have a training camp at altitude prior to the Test week.

Brumbies players who played in the Super Rugby semi-final in Argentina will be given a few days’ break and not join the Wallabies until later in the week, before flying out with the squad.

Pocock hasn’t played since March 8 after re-injuring a calf muscle, which he first hurt at a Wallabies training camp in January.

The star no.7 withdrew from the Brumbies’ season to concentrate on getting his troublesome calf fixed for the World Cup, which begins in September.

Pocock has been working with leading AIS physio Craig Purdam to return from the injury and the Wallabies are not going to try and rush him back.

He will not travel to South Africa with the team and a potential return will be assessed ahead of each Rugby Championship game.

There could be a scenario where Pocock doesn’t play in the TRC at all but returns for the World Cup only, with the flanker historically very good at returning in top form after long injury layoffs.

Pocock said last week he was not putting a hard return-date deadline, but instead ticking off stages on his way back to playing.

Meanwhile, O’Connor could join the Wallabies training camp this week, if a deal with a Super Rugby club is finalised, for Cheika to get a first-hand look at the former Wallaby speedster.

The 29-year-old is set to return from England to play Super Rugby, and possibly Sevens, in a bid to make the World Cup squad. He has been linked with Queensland.

O’Connor’s coach at Sale, Steve Diamond, said last week in an interview that he would not stand in the way of O’Connor seeking a deal in Australia that would allow him to have a shot at making Australia’s World Cup squad.

O'Connor hasn't attended Wallabies training since 2013, when he was stood down for an incident in Perth airport the morning after a Test match, and subsequently left Australia to play overseas.