What does Pocock’s injury mean for the Wallabies?

Elisha Pearce Columnist

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    Dave Pocock goes in for his first try for the Wallabies (AAP Image/Dave Hunt)

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    Scans have confirmed that David Pocock has a torn anterior cruciate ligament and will now face at least six months on the sideline recovering. So where does that leave the Wallabies?

    In the immediate future the loss of Pocock will be felt keenly by the Wallabies side.

    His experience and ability to single-handedly keep his team in the match on his night is not going to be easy to replace. The match against South Africa in the 2011 Rugby World Cup quarter-final springs to mind as one such example of his quality.

    However the replacements for Pocock have been knocking on the door for a while now. It’s possible that giving more time to these players will provide a dimension to the Wallabies we haven’t seen for a long time.

    In 2012, Pocock missed a lot of Wallabies’ rugby due to keyhole surgery to clean up cartilage in his right knee (the ACL tear is in his left knee).

    That absence left room for the player that was arguably the revelation of Australian rugby in 2012 to leap into the Wallabies number seven jumper – Michael Hooper.

    Hooper brings a more all-round game to the number seven than Pocock has traditionally. Hooper is extraordinarily quick for a man of his size and he regularly gains surprising metres in traffic or through small gaps.

    Memorably, he had a hard time controlling the ball in his first Wallabies appearance against Wales, but since then the norm has been his ability to link the forwards and the backs with crisp passing.

    Hooper isn’t a mug in the ruck either, he’s able to poach a ball when his team needs it, but is also just as likely to try and drive the opposition off the ball as get his hands on it.

    The other option to replace Pocock is Liam Gill, the Reds awesome flanker.

    He plays a role similar to Pocock in that he prides himself on being the first to the ball on every ruck and is harder to remove than a blind pimple once he gets there.

    Turnovers are his specialty, but he isn’t poor around the park either; he is careful when running and usually presents quality ball for his team going forward.

    Recently Gill has even added a left boot (but not right!) to his game.

    Looking immediately to June, the Lions are probably happier knowing the ruck terror of Pocock won’t be available to make life hell.

    But the great thing about Pocock’s replacements is you don’t really get the feeling we’ve reached anything like a ceiling of improvement.

    Gill is obviously becoming more and more of a running player and a vocal leader around the park.

    Hooper is becoming a leader by example and buries himself every game he plays, while paying great attention to his in-tight influence.

    For instance, you’ll notice that Hooper was the one closest to the ball when the Brumbies great rolling maul scored a try for them on the weekend.

    Against the Lions you can bet whoever gets game time is going to elevate their performance to another level.

    While Pocock made noises about adding new elements to his game this year, we’ve already seen the fruit of Gill and Hooper being able to do just that in their shorter careers.

    Will Genia also tore his ACL back in September of last year in a win over South Africa in Perth.

    His recovery is set to be fully complete when the Reds take on the Force next weekend – that is a confirmation of the six-month recovery period.

    Genia is returning ahead of the original schedule. If it is a result of maniacal rehab dedication on the part of Genia, I’d expect Pocock to emulate that level of dedication.

    The thing is that everyone’s body is different and each tear and repair will be a different scenario as well.

    It can’t be guaranteed that Pocock will be ready to return to competitive rugby by early September. The timing of the injury may mean that Pocock doesn’t play another competitive rugby match until February 2014.

    So between now and at least September, and possibly February next year, we will have the nail-biting experience of watching two prodigious young talents get the opportunity to put their stamp on the Wallabies open-side flanker position.

    Gill and Hooper have particular strengths and weaknesses, but both have the appearance of men who are out to address those and become complete footballers.

    While Pocock is going to be missed, especially in the short-term, it’s a tantalising prospect to see what these multi-talented youngsters can produce at the highest level.

    Elisha Pearce
    Elisha Pearce

    Long-time Roarer Elisha Pearce joined us as a rugby union expert in 2015. He also works for Fairfax Media and has confused more Roarers with his name than anyone in the history of the site.

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    The Crowd Says (64)

    • March 11th 2013 @ 4:47am
      AndyS said | March 11th 2013 @ 4:47am | ! Report

      A shame it happened at all but, if it was going to, better now than the week before camp…

    • March 11th 2013 @ 5:39am
      mania said | March 11th 2013 @ 5:39am | ! Report

      smith should be called up.

    • March 11th 2013 @ 7:45am
      kingplaymaker said | March 11th 2013 @ 7:45am | ! Report

      Hooper can’t make turnovers and doesn’t even seem to try to. That’s the whole problem.

      • March 11th 2013 @ 7:52am
        Kane said | March 11th 2013 @ 7:52am | ! Report

        Same can be said with Pocock and making meters

        • Roar Guru

          March 11th 2013 @ 1:37pm
          Mantis said | March 11th 2013 @ 1:37pm | ! Report

          I’d rather a 7 that forces the turnover more so than one that focuses on running the ball.

          • Columnist

            March 11th 2013 @ 5:13pm
            Elisha Pearce said | March 11th 2013 @ 5:13pm | ! Report

            I can’t agree that Hooper doesn’t force turnovers. He does. He’s one that drives over the ball as much as poaching it with his hands. But he does force them. he did a number of times in the second half against the Brumbies. In fact, I rate him as one of the main reasons the Brums didn’t score before the 70th min in the second half.

            • Roar Guru

              March 11th 2013 @ 5:19pm
              Mantis said | March 11th 2013 @ 5:19pm | ! Report

              Hooper does force the odd turnover, but no where near as often as a Pocock, Gill or George Smith. He is no doubt great with the ball in hand, but is not as dominant in the ruck as either of the other three mentioned 7s.

              • Columnist

                March 11th 2013 @ 6:29pm
                Elisha Pearce said | March 11th 2013 @ 6:29pm | ! Report

                I’d say Hooper’s side would be more effective in the ruck against the Lions than Gill at this stage. But I wouldn’t be offended if Gill got the opportunity either.

            • March 11th 2013 @ 9:20pm
              Malo said | March 11th 2013 @ 9:20pm | ! Report

              Hooper is a good runner, but apart from European tour, where he went well, when has he made significant turnovers and if so why were the tahs so comprehensively thrashed. George outshone Hooper in his first game with no prep. Where is this all round game that outshines Pocock. Baloney Pocock is in a league way ahead of the rest of these so called legend 7s. It is a monumental loss.

              • Roar Guru

                March 12th 2013 @ 10:40am
                Mantis said | March 12th 2013 @ 10:40am | ! Report

                Agree

    • March 11th 2013 @ 7:50am
      Henry said | March 11th 2013 @ 7:50am | ! Report

      I hated seeing the face of pocock on the side line as the news was sinking in, a quality young man.
      I do however think that hooper was hard done by when replaced by pocock against Wales, hooper was game after game our best player last year and deserved to go into this year as the incumbent. He has started this year with an enormous work rate and is right at the top of tackles made list as well as making the most metres for a forward in the brumbies match, in fact only 3 outside backs Volovola, mogg and Speight made more.

      • Columnist

        March 11th 2013 @ 5:14pm
        Elisha Pearce said | March 11th 2013 @ 5:14pm | ! Report

        Agree with you there Henry. He was doing the thousand yard stare. I’m surprised he gathered his thoughts enough to think to get onto the field at the end and shake hands. I wouldn’t have been surprised if he was still sitting in that chair today when I saw him sitting with the leg up.

    • March 11th 2013 @ 8:01am
      Billy said | March 11th 2013 @ 8:01am | ! Report

      I think you will find hooper forces lots of turnovers, he doesn’t lean over and rip it out las much as pocock but he makes tackles and flicks the ball back or drives over it. Against the rebels last week he forced the turnover at least 5 times including a strip. The other point to consider is hooper is making far more tackles than pocock or gill, they sit behind the tackler then come in as the second man. Hooper has made 10 more tackles than gill this year and played 1 less game.That is why guys like fardy and Ben Robinson also get quite a few turnovers but they are not openside flankers.

      • Columnist

        March 11th 2013 @ 5:14pm
        Elisha Pearce said | March 11th 2013 @ 5:14pm | ! Report

        Good points there Billy. I agree with you.

    • March 11th 2013 @ 8:23am
      Salada said | March 11th 2013 @ 8:23am | ! Report

      Tough luck for DP. Watching it on my recording, I think his lower leg got trapped and a couple of tacklers fell on him.
      Elisha, you state that the Lions are probably happier knowing the ruck terror of Pocock won’t be available to make life hell.
      Probably happier? They’re turning handsprings. They don’t fear Hooper or Gill as ball scroungers. And as ball carriers the Lions pack will be too big and strong to make much headway against.

      Before David’s injury I was pretty sure the Lions would take the series 2-1. Now I’m totally sure.

      • Columnist

        March 11th 2013 @ 5:15pm
        Elisha Pearce said | March 11th 2013 @ 5:15pm | ! Report

        Haha. I may have under played the Lions euphoria Salada. They’ll be happy. Much easier to move the ball without the force of Pocock ruining things for you.

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