Pocock plays down award talk for now

(Rugby News Service) Thursday 20 October 2011
Pocock plays down award talk for now
David Pocock (L) may have something else to celebrate on Monday night

AUCKLAND, 20 Oct. - Australia flanker David Pocock may have been nominated for the IRB Player of the Year Award for the second year running, but for now his focus remains firmly on Friday’s Bronze Final against Wales.

The pilfering ability of the 23-year-old loose forward is crucial to the Wallabies' prospects of stifling the Welsh attack and claiming a third-place finish in the tournament.

"It's a huge honour to be nominated for such an award and I guess it's just that,” Pocock said. “You can't think about it too much with the game coming up tomorrow night."

Pocock, who was raised in Zimbabwe before moving to Australia with his family in 2002, believes that Wales are a well-rounded team whose abilities demand his full attention.

"They've got a back row with a very high work rate. They get around the field well and they're a team in general that attack the rucks hard in attack and defence,” he said.

"They've got some real threats in their backline. Their centres are arguably the hardest running centres in the tournament and that gets them on the front foot a lot of the time. Off the back of that they've got guys with a lot of pace."

Cartoon power

Pocock’s Player of the Year nomination caps off another stellar season for the snaffler, who continues to challenge Richie McCaw for the mantle of best openside flanker in world rugby.

All Blacks captain McCaw was named IRB Player of the Year in 2010 ahead of Pocock but the Kiwi failed to make the shortlist this year as he has spent so much time out injured.

Meanwhile, the man they call ‘Bamm-Bamm’, in a reference to the Flintstones cartoon character who boasts enough force to shake a room with a swing of his bat, has gone from strength to strength as Australia’s main man at the breakdown.

After playing a key role in the Wallabies’ 2011 Tri Nations success, Pocock’s importance to the World Cup prospects of the Australian side was highlighted when, in his absence, they lost 15-6 in the pool stages to Ireland.

Fortunately for the Aussies he soon shook off his back injury and surged back into reckoning with two tries against Russia and a man-of-the-match quarter-final performance against South Africa.

While he was reluctant to speak on his Player of the Year nomination, the modest flanker was keen to pay tribute to second row Nathan Sharpe, who will notch up his 100th Test cap against Wales.

Sharpe tribute

Pocock has played under the captaincy of Sharpe at Perth-based Super Rugby side Western Force since the team’s inception in 2006.

"He's had a huge influence on my rugby so far. He was there when I started at the Force and the past few seasons at the Wallabies as well. He's a guy that everyone looks up to, not just literally, but also as a guy with an amount of principle and who is a real leader on and off the field,” Pocock said.

"To excel for such a long period of time with all the changes in the game, that's a real testament to him as an individual and as an athlete. I think he made his (international) debut when I was 14, so that's a long time at the top."

Pocock, who has already played 38 Tests, will hope to enjoy a similar amount of time at the pinnacle of world rugby and he has time on his side.

He is still a year younger than Sharpe was when he debuted for the Wallabies against France in 2002.

And though he will not consider it until after Wales have been dealt with, winning the IRB Player of the Year Award on Monday would be the perfect start to his own time at the top.

Pocock's Australia teammate Will Genia is also on the shortlist, along with France's Thierry Dusautoir and New Zealand trio Piri Weepu, Jerome Kaino and Ma’a Nonu.

RNS eds/sg