Pocock sidesteps 'ref scrutiny'
A bemused David Pocock is steering clear of Michael Cheika’s theory that match officials targeted him during Australia’s World Cup opening win over Fiji.
World-class back row forward Pocock was happy just to complete his first 80-minute game of rugby for nearly a year as the Wallabies powered home 39-21 after a scratchy start.
Tolu Latu’s two tries from line-out drives mirrored exactly what Pocock did himself four years ago when Australia opened the previous tournament with a 28-13 defeat of Fiji in Cardiff.
This time the 31-year-old’s primary goal was to come through unscathed, something he achieved in a solid performance.
Pocock’s name only came to prominence after full-time when Cheika revealed to journalists what he heard throughout the game from referee Ben O’Keeffe in his microphone discussions with linesmen Luke Pearce and Andrew Brace.
“I’m not sure what [Pocock’s] done but there was some severe focus on him,” Cheika said.
“I heard his name mentioned between them on the commentary at least half a dozen times in their own chat when he hadn’t even been involved in the ruck.”
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Pocock appeared surprised by his coach’s observations but wouldn’t say if he’d noticed a focus on his breakdown conduct.
“You’re not thinking about that stuff out there. We’ll have a look at the review and see. I’ll leave that speculation to you guys,” he said.
“Generally refs are doing a really good job. As long as there are clear communication and consistency, as a player that’s all you can ask for.”
Pocock was pleased with how the Wallabies eventually found their feet after the early Fiji onslaught.
The 31-year-old said they never expected anything other than a fierce contest against opponents who are menacing on attack and growing belief in their capability up front.
“They’ve got some proper danger men out there,” he said.
“But once we started holding the ball and building some pressure through our set-piece, we got better.
“We had to. Fiji’s never going to be an easy game and we came into it expecting a really solid game, physical.
“We weathered the storm a little bit and then got out in front and finished much better.”
Wallabies can handle adversity
Meanwhile, Samu Kerevi reckons the Wallabies got the perfect preparation in their opening match.
The stakes rise this week for Kerevi’s team, who have emerged satisfied from their nerve-jangling 39-21 win over Fiji and now have eight days to prepare to face the Six Nations champions Wales in Tokyo on Sunday.
No injuries were sustained although there is still concern over the status of winger Reece Hodge, who could yet be cited for his high, try-stopping tackle on Fiji dangerman Peceli Yato.
The citing commissioner has 36 hours, until Monday morning, to determine if the winger has a case to answer.
Otherwise, vice-captain Kerevi said the match served an excellent purpose for the Wallabies.
He revealed they had practised the scenario that confronted them in Sapporo on Saturday, having fallen behind by nine points early in the second spell.
Kerevi acknowledged it was his own “rubbish” pass that put them in that situation, allowing opposite Waisea Nayacalevu to gallop half the field untouched to stretch the scoreline to 21-12.
“That’s exactly what we talked about. Because we knew Fiji could score a try from 100 metres away if we made mistakes,” Kerevi said.
“[We’re] in real good stead. Our backs were against the wall… and then it was trust in our system, trust in what the coaches have prepared throughout the week and trust in each other.
“That’s probably the most pleasing thing of all.”
Kerevi believes they’ll meet a similarly-united Wales at Tokyo Stadium.
Wales weren’t the most expressive team when racking up their national record 14-straight Test wins across 2018-19 but had learned to “stay in the fight”, Kerevi said.
He expected to the Wallabies to improve but was also preparing for another close encounter with the Welsh.
Those sorts of matches come down to character, he said.
“We’re never going to play a perfect game, things are going to happen. It’s those times we have to stay connected.”
Wales open their campaign against Georgia in Tokyo on Monday.
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