Openside flanker David Pocock will complete his return to on-field duties after today being named to start in the Qantas Wallabies’ year-ending James Bevan Trophy Test against Wales in Cardiff on Saturday (2.30pm).
Pocock led Australia to a 3-0 clean sweep of Grand Slam-winning Wales in June, but has not appeared since injuring his knee during the Wallabies’ opening match of the inaugural Castrol EDGE Rugby Championship against the All Blacks at Sydney in August.
The 24-year-old was scheduled to make his return earlier in the Spring Tour, but was held back after sustaining a mild calf strain at training prior to Australia’s departure from Paris following the opening game of the tour.
Pocock’s return allows the work load to be eased for star rookie Michael Hooper, who has performed exceptionally in the absence of his senior colleague.
Used off the bench against the Six Nations champions in June, Hooper ends his freshman Test season having started nine Tests consecutively prior to this weekend, where he will be injected into the game from the bench.
The high class 21-year-old fetcher has won the Australian team’s internal Player of the Day award on four occasions from those nine starting appearances.
Although Pocock will not captain the Wallabies this weekend, with that honour remaining with Pocock’s long-time Western Force and Wallaby colleague Nathan Sharpe as he plays his 116th and final Test; Qantas Wallabies coach Robbie Deans says his return will provide the squad with fresh impetus – both physically and mentally.
“David is one of the best in the world as a player, and is growing every day as a leader, so naturally we are delighted to have him back,” Deans says.
“While he has continued to contribute off the field, this tour has been one of frustration for him, but we were not prepared to take any risks and potentially compromise either the player or the team, in terms of his fitness. The upside to the wait is that his return comes at a time where we need fresh energy, as was evident at times during our Test in Italy last weekend.”
Although Deans believes Pocock is capable of playing the full Test, pointing to the lengthy training background he had prior to the calf strain, the inclusion of Hooper in the match night squad gives Australia the option of applying two openside flankers to the breakdown contest.