Higginbotham backs Pocock-Hooper combo
IN THE SPOTLIGHT: Australian loose forward Scott Higginbotham expects Wallabies’ head coach Michael Cheika to pick both Michael Hooper and David Pocock among the back-row during the upcoming Rugby World Cup.
Higginbotham, 33, who signed for French Top 14 club Bordeaux-Begles this summer after leaving the Queensland Reds, made his last of his 34 Test appearance in June 2017.
“There’s a good bit of figuring out to do with things like Pocock and Hooper,” he told AFP.
“It’s still a big question playing two sevens on the field, personally it’s not my ideal back-row in terms of playing two sevens.
“It seems to be the way they have been going over the last few years so I don’t know if they’ll be looking at changing it now,” he added.
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Pocock and Hooper both play as opensides for their Super Rugby franchises, but haven’t started at flanker together for their country since the defeat to Ireland in June last year.
The 31-year-old Pocock will retire from the international scene at the end of the tournament and has only played once for the Wallabies since December 2018 due to injury.
“I think they’ll play Pocock in two of the pool games, I don’t think they’ll play him in too many more,” Higginbotham said.
Australia begin their campaign against Fiji on Saturday before facing Wales, Uruguay and Georgia in the pool stages.
Higginbotham denied the sacking of Israel Folau by Rugby Australia in May for posting on Instagram that “hell awaits” gay people and others he considers sinners had an impact on Australia’s preparations for the tournament.
“I think it was mainly a distraction for the Waratahs at the particular time. I don’t think that has really come in to affect the Wallabies set-up,”
‘Never turn down Wallabies’
Higginbotham made three appearances at the competition eight years ago as a 25-year-old, held across the Tasman Sea.
“Being an Australian in a World Cup in New Zealand wasn’t the easiest thing and that nice of an experience,” he said.
“I almost wish I had been a little bit older when I went to the World Cup to grasp exactly what I was experiencing,” he added.
A Super Rugby champion with the Reds in 2011, the forceful ball-carrier has played for the Melbourne Rebels and the NEC Green Rockets in Japan as well as a few early season games for unbeaten Bordeaux-Begles this term.
Higginbotham admitted travelling the globe playing rugby makes up for missing out on a second World Cup and said he has not hung up his Test boots.
“It would have been nice to have gone to another World Cup but I have been able to play in Japan and France, played plenty of games for Queensland and experience different things in football,” he said.
“You are never going to turn down the opportunity to play for the Wallabies.”