Rugby richer for Pocock’s return

Date published: August 2 2015

Debates discussing who is the best in the world are frequent, but when it comes to openside flankers one name has made a welcome return to the mix.

David Pocock finishing his long road back to the top of the game is a welcome sight for not just Australia but the entire sport. 

On Saturday the Zimbabwe-born flanker cleaned up at the Brumbies end-of-year awards, winning three accolades including Players' Player of the Year and Supporters Player of the Year.

Those awards are a long way from how he spent 2013 and 2014 – sidelined with major knee injuries which both required reconstructive surgery, robbing both the Brumbies and Australia of one of their best talents.

His successful return for club and country in 2015 has been more enjoyable to watch because of those setbacks. Pocock isn't edging his way back, he's dominating.

“Poey has faced a lot of adversity of the past two years with his injuries, and to come back the way he did shows the caliber of player he really is,” Brumbies head coach Stephen Larkham said of Pocock's comeback.

“We saw this season how valuable he is to this team both in attack and defense.

“Not only is Poey a great individual player but his work ethic and the way in which he supports other players shows why he is considered one of the best players in the world right now.”

Pocock's off-field qualities are why he has been an Australia captain in the past, although whether he receives that honour again is uncertain based on his views regarding a number of issues.

Back in March it was Pocock who raised the issue of Jacques Potgieter's homophobic slur in the Brumbies-Waratahs derby. He and his partner refuse to get married until Australia's same-sex marriage laws are changed. Last December he was arrested for protesting the construction of a coal mine in the middle of a New South Wales forest. 

Sadly for some those strong values make him too controversial a character to lead a side in international rugby, too principled, when in fact the sport is immensely lucky to have him and richer for his desire to stand up for what he believes in.

We need more like Pocock, not for him to be criticised for speaking out.

His actions off the field are hugely admirable, not a burden, but additionally for the Wallabies he remains one of the best in the world at turning over ball at the breakdown, chopping down runners of all sizes and more recently, with two hat-tricks during the Super Rugby season, at adding tries from the back of a rolling maul.

Michael Cheika knows that in Pocock he has a player he can rely on for something special and who can fire up the players around him in the biggest games.

His appearances in the Tests against South Africa and Argentina were his first for three years yet Pocock never looked like he had been away. He finished in Mendoza with 18 tackles to his name.

The debate of whether to pick Pocock or Michael Hooper therefore is over, because both players have become vital for the Wallabies and have to take the field together.

Forgive Australia's Pool A opponents England and Wales if they are not cheering his return to top form, but watching Pocock rampage around the park again is an awesome sight.

With any luck he will be fighting battles both on and off the field for years to come, the next being a reunion with Richie McCaw and the All Blacks in Sydney.

by Ben Coles