Pocock's influence helping Valetini raise the bar for Brumbies

Super Rugby
by Emma Greenwood

He won't be there in person but David Pocock could yet have a massive impact on the Brumbies' fortunes this season, with fellow backrower Rob Valetini set to mimic the Wallaby great's preparation in a bid to become a Test regular.

Backrower Valetini made his Test debut against Samoa in Sydney in September just days after his 21st birthday - a bittersweet moment after a knee injury during the Super Rugby season derailed his World Cup chances.

While he wasn't part of the Wallabies' campaign in Japan, Valetini has been marked as part of the new era and a certainty for Rugby World Cup 2023, although he will not be distracted by crystal ball gazing.

Having suffered an earlier, more serious knee injury that kept him out for most of the 2018 season before this year's layoff, Valetini knows nothing is certain and is content to live in the moment, focused on what he can do every day to make himself a better player.

And that's where Pocock comes in.

Valetini has long looked up to Pocock, nominating his fellow backrower as a schoolboy hero, and learnt plenty from him.

Pocock's dedication to training and preparation is well-known, the injury-prone star preparing meticulously to give himself the best chance of playing at his peak.

Valetini was like a sponge soaking up lessons from Pocock and is keen to replicate the processes he believes led to much of the veteran's success.

"Just the little things, the one percenters," Valetini said.

A focus on match recovery and injury prevention through routines such as stretching is one thing.

But Valetini is set to take the Pocock method off field as well.

"One thing he used to do was take a (note) book into team meetings," Valetini said of Pocock.

"He'd write things down … and he talked to the team last year about what he'd do to check things that were in there off.

"He'd know if he'd done that he'd be prepared for the game.

"That's something I'll probably look to do as well."

Valetini is not bitter at missing the cut for Michael Cheika's squad and watched the World Cup wishing his teammates the best knowing that his efforts in camp and on debut in the pre-departure Test against Samoa helped hone their preparations.

But don't mistake that for a lack of drive.

While he usually enjoys a thorough off-season break, the past six weeks have been spent ensuring he would return to the Brumbies fold in the best shape possible, ready to push towards another successful Super Rugby campaign he hopes translates into another chance in the Test arena.

"I got together with a few guys a couple of times a week to do some running as well as working by myself," Said Valetini, who also played in the NRC with the Canberra Vikings.

"My fitness (is what I want to work on the most). I think that will help my game overall."

Whether that's as a no.8 - the role Valetini said outgoing Wallabies coach Michael Cheika believed he was most suited to - or at no.6, is of little concern to him.

"I really don't know (what my best position is), I don't mind," he said.

"Cheik saw me as a no.8.

"I really don't mind. No.8, you can come off the back of the scrum and attack, at no.6 you're more of a second-phase runner."

If it lands another Test cap for Wallaby no.929, Valetini will be content.