David Pocock poses during a Wallabies training session at Ballymore.
David Pocock poses during a Wallabies training session at Ballymore.

Remember me? Champion Wallaby primed for ‘special’ challenge

THE last time David Pocock pulled on Wallaby gold and belted out the national anthem his teammates included Quade Cooper, Nick Frisby, Dean Mumm and Stephen Moore.

The former two have since been jettisoned by Reds coach Brad Thorn and are completely off the Test radar while the latter duo are retired, with Mumm spending more time on a North Pole dog sled than on the rugby field.

Eighteen months is a very long time in rugby, Pocock having played the last of his 65 Tests in the 37-21 loss to England at Twickenham in December 2016.

He spent 2017 on sabbatical, mixing charity work and education with a rugby stint in Japan.

"Yeah it does feel like a long time," Pocock said as he prepares for Test number 66 against Ireland in Brisbane on Saturday.

"I guess time away you realise what an incredible opportunity it is and what a privilege it is to represent Australia.

"There's the usual excitement of getting into camp and one week to prepare, so we're working hard, getting through a lot of content and it's a really big challenge on Saturday."

Ironically, Ireland have had the better preparation despite Australia being the home side, shaking off their jet lag on the Gold Coast at the weekend while the Super Rugby clubs went hammer and tongs.

Exacerbating the problem was the bizarre scheduling of a Brumbies game on Sunday afternoon, in which Pocock played 55 minutes despite Wallabies coach Michael Cheika's plea to put the feet up.

David Pocock is keen to make an impact in his return match.
David Pocock is keen to make an impact in his return match.

It meant the eight Brumbies in the squad spent Monday recovering rather than training, with Pocock and Co then let off the leash on Tuesday.

But forget lineout calls and breakdown tactics, with so many new faces the Zimbabwe native's biggest priority has been on forging personal connections with his new teammates.

"It's all about the relationships and working together, there's so many new guys to get around," Pocock said.

"So to meet guys, get to know them a bit, the next three weeks that's what it's all about.

"You look around, there's a bunch of immigrants in this team and I guess as an immigrant you're also representing the people where you come from and all the people that have helped you along the way.

"To me that's really special and something that I certainly don't take for granted."

Pocock and the Wallabies haven't come in completely cold.

Cheika and his coaching staff filtered out information on Ireland and his own plans throughout Super Rugby although the champion flanker admitted there was no substitute for work on the grass.

David Pocock during Wallabies training at Ballymore in Brisbane.
David Pocock during Wallabies training at Ballymore in Brisbane.

"We've got a bit of background on how we're going to play and the lineouts and all that sort of stuff but it's not until you actually come together and start to get through some reps that you actually connect all the dots in your brain," Pocock said.

"Ireland have had a phenomenal year, from the Six Nations to Leinster with the double, very impressive.

"So that's a huge challenge for us.

"They'll be wanting to end their season on a high and the challenge for us is to be good to go in the first Test.

"But that's what you want, you want to be playing against the best and testing yourself.

"We'll be doing everything we can to be good to go Saturday."

Pocock is expected to start at Suncorp Stadium but with captain Michael Hooper wearing his favoured No.7 it is unclear whether the 30-year-old will spend more time at the back of the scrum or at blindside.

It is an awkward fit but Australian rugby simply can't afford to leave world class talents riding the pine.

Regardless of the number on his back, Cheika will encourage Pocock to focus on his phenomenal breakdown strengths with Reds rookie Caleb Timu favoured to head off Pete Samu and Lukhan Tui for the other starting spot in the backrow.