One Percenters: Pocock makes big recovery strides but no date set down for return

The Rugby Championship
by Beth Newman and Emma Greenwood

Wallabies coach Michael Cheika is reluctant to put a date on David Pocock's return but the star flanker took a big stride in his recovery from a lingering calf injury this week.

Pocock, who is still struggling to shake a calf injury that he initially picked up in a January training camp, ran at full pace in Brisbane last week in a positive sign for the flanker.

Despite that, Cheika said he wasn't guaranteeing any timeline for his return with so many suggested comeback nights this year failing to come to fruition.

Australia have a week off before an August 10 Bledisloe Cup opener in Perth Pocock would have to train fully with the team for an entire week before he was picked to play.

"We really wanted to stay away from putting a date on it because there's been too many dates put on it already," he said.

"We're just trying to work to the next milestone. So on Friday he ran full game speed, he's getting everything sorted out, now we'll see how he recovers, how he builds up during the week.

"He needs to do a whole week with the team in everything and once he's done that, then he should be right to go."

Pocock is one of a number of Test stars yet to feature in this year's Rugby Championship with Adam Coleman (shoulder) and Allan Alaalatoa (foot) among those who are yet to suit up.

That duo, along with players including Brumbies backrower Pete Samu and Wallabies squad member Adam Ashley-Cooper, could all come into the mix for that Bledisloe opener.

While the Wallabies have little wiggle room when it comes to putting their strongest side on the park against the All Blacks, Cheika said there was still an element of ensuring some of those players had opportunities before they pick their World Cup squad.

"We've seen a lot of guys playing some footy and the opportunities they've been given, there might still be a place for a player or two that hasn't played as yet," he said.

"There's still a few guys that haven't played.

"Still haven't had Allan Alaalatoa, Adam Coleman hasn't played yet, Poey hasn't played yet, so there's still a bunch of guys who haven't played as yet and Ashley-Cooper, there's a bunch of them out there.

"I think that once we discuss what we want to get out of these games, obviously it's pretty clear what the objective is in those games, but how we're going to get what we want then we'll nail it down."

Aussie Sevens get taste of Olympic prep

Australia's women's Sevens might have just begun their preseason but they're already getting a feel for what the 2020 Olympics may bring.

The Aussies have jetted off to Odawara this week, a year out from the tournament, to train and experience the local area.

Australia will be using Odawara as their pre-Olympic training base, just as the Wallabies will be based there leading into the Rugby World Cup.

The women qualified for the tournament with a top four finish in the 2018-19 World Series, while the men will face an Oceania regional qualifier in Fiji in November as they bid to secure their spot.

Genia marvels at Kerevi's transformation

Will Genia and Samu Kerevi both had Suncorp Stadium farewells on Saturday night. Photo: WalmsleyWhen Will Genia bid Suncorp Stadium farewell on Saturday night alongside Wallabies teammate Samu Kerevi, he was looking at a very different player from the one that made his Reds debut in the halfback's 100th game for Queensland.

Genia will retire from international rugby following the World Cup, while Kerevi, who is in his prime and set to play in Japan for the next three years, may have also played his final match in a gold jersey at Suncorp given he does not qualify to be recalled from overseas under the Giteau Law.

Kerevi was arguably the form player in Super Rugby this season, his success coming on the back of hard work, discipline and leadership at the Reds.

But Genia said it wasn't always that way.

“One time we were down at Ballymore, I was doing extras at the end of training, I said to him: ‘I’m doing fitness here, you should be jumping in with me, you haven’t even played yet’," Genia recalled this week.

“I remember looking at him and seeing such raw ability, raw power, so much room for growth.

"But he had to sort out those areas of his game first, getting into condition, getting into shape and understanding what it took to be a professional in that sense.

“If you look at him now, what a player. Probably the best player in Super Rugby this year.

“I’m not just saying that because he’s my mate, he’s been exceptional the last two years.

“I’m just grateful  he’s on my team this weekend and I don’t have to tackle him."

After pouring compliments on the man sitting next to him, Genia couldn't resist a slight dig though, the Rebels player reminding Kerevi of the results when Melbourne played the Reds this season.

"Although when we played the Reds we beat him a couple of times," he said.

Matera keeping future options open

Pablo Matera.Photo: Getty ImagesPumas captain Pablo Matera hasn't entirely ruled out the possibility of venturing to an Australian Super Rugby franchise 

Matera is heading to Stade Francais after the World Cup but Pumas coach Mario Ledesma cheekily suggested this week that the star backrower loved Sydney so much he might want to play there one day.

In reality, the comments probably fell into the category of random musing by Ledesma, who knows the charm of a sunny Coogee winter day all too well.

But the quotes were picked up on global wire services throughout the week, and no doubt went down like a lead balloon in Argentina.

Matera said Australia's rules on foreign marquees would make any move to Australia tricky but didn't shut the door on the possibility.

"You never know, I think it's difficult with Australia you know, they have like a rule, foreign rule in Super Rugby, I don't know," he said.

"I think it's difficult but who knows?"

If Matera's career trajectory continues, the biggest obstacle to his acquisition would be the salary he demands but any of that would come well down the track.

It is understood NSW Rugby followed up via back channels to verify how genuine Matera's interest was but they weren’t keen to show too much enthusiasm publicly, given it’s a hypothetical scenario.

Ledesma was quick to shut down a question on the topic in his post-match press conference, saying it wasn't the right time to be discussing that.

Schools game more than just a rugby clash

Brisbane State High School and Nudgee College played the curtain-raiser at Suncorp Stadium and while it was a comfortable win for Nudgee, the significance of the game went well beyond the on-field result.

The match also served as a vehicle to raise funds for spinal care and injury rehabilitation after four Queensland boys suffered serious injuries playing rugby in 2018.

Rugby Australia and the GPS Association in Queensland doanted $50,000 of Saturday night's gate takings to the cause, splitting the funds between Princess Alexandra Hospital Spinal Care Unit, the Lady Cilento Rehabilitation Ward, ParaStartProgram and the Sporting Wheelies and Disabled Association.

Speaking of the schools game, the support for both sides was off the charts in Brisbane, highlighted by this spine-tingling moment from the Nudgee supporters.

Horne to tackle Kokoda

Former Wallaby Rob Horne is set to tackle the Kokoda trail, hoping to bring his experience back to the Aussie Sevens fold.

Horne, who was forced into retirement after suffering paralysis in one of his arms, will embark on the trek next week.

The 30-year-old has had a difficult time of it since retiring, adjusting to his new life, but has inspired plenty around him with his resilience in the face of adversity.

Team announcement a family affair for Cheika

The Wallabies' weekly team announcement was a little bit busier than usual with two younger, members of the media in attendance in Brisbane.

Plenty of players and staff had their familiies around after having been away from home for the better part of three weeks and coach Michael Cheika was no exception.

Two of Michael Cheika's sons sat in on the press conference, brainstorming potential questions to ask him.

Dad quickly put a stop to any potential trolling of the press conference though the boys watched on as it unfolded.