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Michael Hooper and David Pocock, the two form openside flankers in Australia.
The selection headache that Wallabies coach Michael Cheika faces between these two players has been a regular point of discussion among my fellow Roarers.
I am an unbashed fan of both these players and I would be happy with either one of them starting as the Wallabies openside flanker (and the other as the blindside, but that’s a discussion for another time).
This article is not passing judgement on either player, merely gathering this year’s statistics together to see if they can give us an insight into what role either player may play in the upcoming Wallabies campaign.
Offensive stats: 43 metres a game, 7.1 runs, 5 try assists, 11 line breaks, 3 line break assists, 43 tackle busts, 8 offloads, 8 errors, 2 tries.
Defensive stats: 11 tackles a game, 2.1 missed tackes, 2 pilfers, 16 penalties conceded.
Offensive: 34 metres a game, 7.4 runs, 0 try assists, 4 line breaks, 4 line break assists, 15 tackle busts, 4 offloads, 6 errors, 8 tries.
Defensive: 11.4 tackles, 0.6 missed tackles, 11 pilfers, 9 penalties.
Hooper was used more like an extra back, while Pocock was used as a traditional openside flanker, and both excelled at their role within their team.
Hooper broke the line more regularly, laid on a number of tries for his teammates, busted plenty of tackles (43) and offloaded slightly more than Pocock.
Pocock led the comp in forced penalties and was second overall for pilfers – clearly he is a weapon at the breakdown. In comparison Hooper only forced one penalty, and pilfered the ball twice.
It could be argued that it was Cheika’s game plan for Hooper to focus on the offensive side of things rather than turning the ball over, but either way Pocock is still clearly more effective at the breakdown conceding nine penalties to Hoopers’ 16.
Pocock scored the equal most tries this year by a forward with eight, mainly off the back of the very effective Brumbies maul, while Hooper scored two.
Statistically, Hooper was the best No. 7 in the competition in a number of categories (outside of forced penalties and pilfers). He was a workhorse, and had the most run metres (782), tackles busts (43), line breaks (11), try assists (5), and tackles (177) of any openside flanker and was ranked second for runs (113).
Defensively they both led their teams in tackles per games. Pocock missed just six of his 129 tackles. Hooper missed a lot more tackles (leading the competition with 36) but many of those were due to attempting tackles in situations a flanker has no right to be in, such as trying to chase down an interception.
I know most Roarers are never shy to share their opinion, so who gets your vote and why?