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David Pocock's continual absence is causing concern

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Expert
23rd April, 2019
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Champion flanker and enforced No, 8 David Pocock hasn’t played for the Brumbies for six weeks and won’t be on duty against the Jaguares in Buenos Aires this weekend.

There are only 88 days to the first Wallabies international of the year against the Boks at Ellis Park in the opening round of the abbreviated Rugby Championship, and as the weeks tick by with no Pocock it’s understandable that Wallabies coach Michael Cheika and selectors Scott Johnson and Michael O’Connor could start feeling uncomfortable.

The reason is simple: no Pocock at any stage of the international World Cup campaign would be a major minus.

Pocock has overcome a concussion, but he has an ongoing calf problem, the legacy of a too hard, too early Wallabies camp last January.

The bigger problem is a chronic neck injury, the result of far too many illegal tackles that should have been stamped out by referees ages ago.

The neck condition could yet prompt an early retirement as soon as the completion of the World Cup, and at 30 years of age and in the prime of his stellar career, that would be a tragedy for both him and the code.

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In the past two years Pocock has played 22 Tests and just 20 Super games. This season he’s played just 138 minutes in three games.

There’s another scenario that has rugby fans waiting in anticipation: what will the new three-man selection panel do with the Pooper experiment?

We all know Cheika wants Michael Hooper at No. 7 and captain with Pocock at No. 8. But how will Johnson and O’Connor react to that? They will have an equal say with Cheika at the selection table.

That’s a dramatic change and something Cheika has never faced before in his entire coaching career. It’s always been his way or the highway on selections.

Having said that, there could be an even bigger selection problem if Israel Folau wins his code of conduct hearing on 4 May. Cheika has already made it crystal clear he wants no part of Folau in any future Wallabies campaign.

Israel Folau of the Wallabies evades a tackle

(Mark Metcalfe/Getty Images)

That was obviously a heat-of-the-moment quote without clearing it with Johnson or O’Connor. They haven’t yet made their stance clear on Folau and shouldn’t until the 4 May result.

But wouldn’t you like to be a fly on the wall at the first selection meeting of the new panel? There are so many other spots up for discussion – the meeting could take hours.

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I promise Roarers one thing, and it’s crucial: both Scott Johnson and Michael O’Connor will select the way they see it, which is why they have been hand-picked by Rugby Australia. They will never become limp rubber stamps to the Michael Cheika way.

As a result, the Wallabies, the fans and the code will be the ongoing beneficiaries.