Refs must watch Pocock spoilers
Australia coach Robbie Deans has called on match officials to protect David Pocock at the breakdown and ensure New Zealand don’t try to take the Australian captain out of play in their Rugby Championship opener on Saturday night in Sydney.
During the mid-year Tests, Deans was vocal about how his champion No.7 Pocock was treated by the Welsh.
And he doesn’t want his most influential forward to be unfairly held out of the action the Wallabies fight to stop their Bledisloe Cup drought extending to 10 years and ensure their four-nations tournament campaign is off to a winning start.
“It’s not so much at the breakdown, it’s laying after the breakdown is over. The ball is gone and the game is carrying on and players are being denied the ability to participate in that game,” said Deans on Friday.
“That’s the touch judges’ responsibility because the referee is watching the game, which is somewhere else.”
Deans praised Pocock for his blossoming leadership skills in the absence of usual skipper James Horwill, but called on other senior Wallabies to stand up and be counted.
The All Blacks crushed Australia in last year’s Rugby World Cup semi-final at Eden Park and, if the Wallabies drop Saturday’s first Bledisloe clash, they face the frightening prospect of having to keep the series alive next week at their Auckland graveyard.
Kurtley Beale was absent from the 20-6 World Cup loss and Deans has identified the dynamic fullback, as well as halves Will Genia and Berrick Barnes ,as the players who need to be Pocock’s eyes and ears.
“David can’t do it all by himself … he needs people around him prepared to stand up and offer solutions because he’s got his head down quite often,” said Deans.
“The directors in the game, guys like Will, Berrick and Kurtley at the back – we rely on them to provide those sort of initiatives.”
Strike player Beale has had an interrupted season through injury and off-field drama but Deans is confident he can be the difference in a tough, defensive game.
Australia hold a 6-5 record over the All Blacks at ANZ Stadium but they’ve lost their past five matches against their arch enemy at the Olympic venue.
The Australian franchises failed to make a dent in the Super Rugby finals, but skipper Pocock says it’s allowed his squad to develop a strong bond in a longer build-up and take confidence from their series sweep of Wales.
“We’ve had a bit more time together and a lot of new guys have got a lot of exposure to how we do things,” Pocock said.
Deans played a straight bat to a verbal barb from counterpart Steve Hansen about his selections and All Blacks captain Richie McCaw also chose to stay out of the simmering rivalry between the coaches.
“I don’t get too carried away with individual battles, it’s Wallabies versus the All Blacks and that carries enough as it is,” said McCaw.© AAP 2013
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