Wallabies' 'Pooper' on ice for World Cup?
NOVEMBER SPOTLIGHT: The renowned partnership between David Pocock and Michael Hooper might not be utilised at the next year’s World Cup in Japan.
Hooper and Pocock are regularly among the Wallabies’ best in the Tests they play. And Wallabies coach Michael Cheika has picked the pair to start in every Test for which they have both been available since the 2015 Rugby World Cup began.
However, their deployment as starters in the Australian team comes at the expense of a fourth lineout option.
According to Rugbycomau, the struggles with the Wallabies line-out this season and Isi Naisarani’s eligibility at no.8 next year, have raised questions as to whether the ‘Pooper’ combination will continue to be used through to the 2019 World Cup.
However, it will be very unwise to leave either Hooper – the captain – or recently crowned John Eales medallist Pocock out of the squad.
Pocock admitted the lack of height at lineout time would always be a discussion point as long as the dual openside combination continued, but it was up to the Wallabies coaches to weigh up that balance.
“That’s always going to be talked about and that’s up to the coaches in terms of the profile that they’re looking for, what they think the benefits as opposed to the costs of having two shorter players in the back row,” Pocock told rugbycomau.
“I love playing alongside Hoops but I don’t know [if it will remain through the World Cup], that’s up to the coaches and what profile they think going to be best for us as a team.
“I’ll stay out of that one. I really rate Mike as a person, as a captain, as a player and I love playing alongside him.
“We’ve worked hard at trying to get that combination working as best we can,”
The Wallabies’ backrow department shapes as having decent depth in the Rugby World Cup year, even with players like Sean McMahon plying their trade overseas.
After a year out with a hamstring injury, Jack Dempsey’s return against the All Blacks was a positive and he is a good shot at starting against Wales.
Pete Samu has added class and along with Ned Hanigan, Lukhan Tui will be back from personal leave next year.
Australia’s two tour development players Rob Valetini and Naisarani are also well-regarded No.8, giving the Wallabies new options in that area, too.
While the Wallabies mull back row formations, Wales’s changing of the guard is already well underway with the retirement of long-time skipper Sam Warburton.
Justin Tipuric regularly partnered with Warburton in the Welsh back row and Pocock said the threat would be just as great regardless of Warburton’s retirement.
“I rate him [Tipuric], he gets through a lot of work, his timing’s really good so the way the game’s played these days at the breakdown is such a big part of it,” he said.
“In attack, you’re trying to get quick ball and get into your dangerous attacking players’ hands and in defence, you’re looking to either turn it over or slow it down and you see teams like New Zealand and how good they are at attacking the breakdown and slowing it down,”