Pocock's actual return date remains mystery
IN THE SPOTLIGHT: Wallabies captain Michael Hooper predicts David Pocock will “kill it” when he makes his long-awaited playing return and he’s also excited about James O’Connor’s X-factor.
Pocock has been sidelined since March with a calf injury and is no certainty to return for the upcoming Bledisloe Cup series against NZ, starting in Perth on Saturday.
Despite his lengthy absence, the Wallabies appear set to gamble on him for the World Cup and Hooper has no doubt the 31-year-old will be able to shine when he does make it back.
“I’m not sure when it’s going to be but he looks in great shape and I’m sure when he does get back on the field he’ll kill it,” Hooper said of the man once rated the best flank in the world.
“They’re going to do the right due diligence on [his calf] and get him back on the field as soon as possible but making sure it’s going to be a continual thing.”
Wallabies coach Michael Cheika has combined Pocock and Hooper in the backline in the past and Hooper has no doubt the tactic can work again.
O’Connor made his Wallabies return in the recent 16-10 win over Argentina in Brisbane, making a 10-minute cameo off the bench following a six-year exile from the national side.
But the 29-year-old is expected to be given more game time against the All Blacks at Perth’s Optus Stadium on Saturday night.
“He’s very dynamic,” Hooper said.
“He’s got a good presence about him in the team at the moment. He’s got genuine X-factor and he can cover a lot of positions.”
Hooper was 10-years-old when Australia last won the Bledisloe Cup in 2002.
The 27-year-old is desperate to help the Wallabies end that losing run.
“It’s been that case for a few generations of Australian players now and it would be great to have that look different,” Hooper said.
“But there’s a huge task. NZ are a great team and have been the best team in the world for the past 10 years. And they’ve shown they can grind out [wins] as well.”
The All Blacks experimented heavily with their team line-ups in their 20-16 win over Argentina and 16-16 draw with South Africa.
But NZ coach Steve Hansen has promised to roll out his strongest side against the Wallabies.
The Wallabies have just three games remaining before the start of the World Cup, leaving Cheika with little time to bed down his preferred line-up.