Pocock hopeful of Test return against Samoa

Rugby World Cup
Beth Newman Profile
by Beth Newman

Wallabies flanker David Pocock is quietly confident he will be cleared to play against Samoa on September 7 after almost six months watching from the sidelines but where he lines up in his return is still a matter of debate.

Pocock has missed almost six months of rugby with a niggling calf injury, an ailment that ended his final Super Rugby season back in March.

The 31-year-old has been working hard with Wallabies physio Ed Hollis to get himself back to full fitness and Wallabies coach Michael Cheika said earlier in the week that he expected Pocock to be fit for their Samoa clash.

Asked after Friday's World Cup squad announcement whether Pocock would be fit to do all that was required of him in the World Cup, Cheika was unequivocal.

"Yeah I'm confident (he) will be able to do that, definitely," he said.

Pocock stopped short of guaranteeing himself a spot in that September 7 Test, which will be Australia's final outing before the World Cup, but said he was optimistic about his chances after returning to regular team training ahead of the Auckland Bledisloe Cup Test.

David Pocock is hoping to feature in his third Rugby World Cup. Photo: RUGBY.com.au/Stuart Walmsley"Yeah, I hope so, it'd be great to get out there," he said.

"I'm pretty much in full training now. I did pretty much the full week in the Auckland week so yeah back into it.

"I'm ready to go."

While Pocock is one of the few players who could probably make an impact at the World Cup without much match fitness - the flanker won the John Eales medal in 2018 despite missing a third of that year's Test matchs - but said the chance to have a run before the tournament would be important.

"The first game of the season after injury is always a good way to blow out some cobwebs and get back into it," he said.

"I feel like I've been working hard to build momentum through my rehab stuff every week so I'm excited to have the run."

Pocock last played rugby for the Brumbies back on March 8, some five months and two weeks ago and he admitted it felt like a long time between outings for him as much as anyone monitoring his fitness.

"It feels like a while, a lot's happened since then, a lot of time with the physios and doctors and rehab running on the side while the team trains," he said.

"As a player, it's exciting to be ball in hand again, back with the team. Samoa will be a great challenge - I know a couple of the guys in the team so that always adds a bit."

Pocock is no stranger to long-term injuries, having gone through consecutive knee reconstructions before the 2015 Rugby World Cup but this injury left him as frustrated as any.

With this set to be his final season in Australia, Pocock opted against taking end-of-year holidays after the 2018 season in a bid to ensure his body was right for a Super Rugby swansong.

David Pocock lasted just five minutes. Photo: RUGBY.com.au/Stuart WalmsleyInstead, he pinged his calf in a January training camp and then once again two months later, the second one being particularly troublesome.

"This one was disappointing because I kind of took December to really work on mobility and all that kind of stuff, stay fit and make this my best year and it hasn't worked out that way," he said.

"So, you've just got to change the plan. The goal became to get to the World Cup and play my best rugby there."

How Pocock is deployed when he does return will be hotly debated - whether he revives his "Pooper" partnership with captain Michael Hooper or the pair alternate.

With Hooper the team skipper, Cheika hinted it would be unlikely for the Waratahs openside to come off the bench, but raised the possibility of alternating the pair game by game.

"That's the decision to make, isn't it?," he said when asked his thoughts on the best use of the pair.

"Michael's the captain, so it's either them together or we make a decision that one plays one game and one plays another.

"We'll prepare for the Fiji game and see what's the best combination for that game and we'll go from there."

The Wallabies open their Rugby World Cup campaign against Fiji at the Sapporo Dome on Saturday September 21, kicking off at 2:45pm AEST, LIVE on Foxtel and Network Ten.