Freakish Pocock issues Ireland warning
WALLABIES warrior David Pocock has warned Ireland that he - and his team - have plenty of room for improvement after making a startling return to Test rugby in Brisbane.
The champion flanker was best on ground at Suncorp Stadium, scoring the game sealing try in Australia's rousing 18-9 win in the first of three Tests.
But those five points were the just the icing on Pocock's performance as he made 18 tackles and won three breakdown turnovers - an area that is usually an Irish strength.
Making the performance even more incredible is that it was the 30-year-old's first Test in 18 months after he spent 2017 on a Rugby Australia funded sabbatical.
There were plenty who criticised RA's decision to allow Pocock paid time off but it will be looking like smart business if Pocock can maintain this form through to next year's World Cup.
Or even take it higher.
"As a rugby player you always want to be chasing that improvement and trying to push the boundaries of what you're capable of as a player," Pocock said before the team shifted base to Melbourne.
"If you speak to most guys they certainly don't think they're at their best, they're trying to get something more out of themselves.
"You've just got to back yourself and the fact that if you're doing all your prep, the physical and the mental stuff, that you'll get back to your best."
Australia doesn't just benefit from Pocock's on field skills, either.
He hit the nail on the head with his voice on the Israel Folau saga, highlighting how damaging Folau's comments could be for vulnerable souls yet maintaining that future dialogue needed to be open minded and constructive.
The joyous celebrations between Pocock and Folau before the latter's try was disallowed were noticeable.
"It felt good," Pocock stated simply of his return to the Test arena.
"But they're not No 2 in the world for no reason, I think they'll be a much improved team in Melbourne."
Born in Zimbabwe, Pocock spent much of 2017 in Africa and did his best to follow the Wallabies' results despite some technological difficulties.
"There was a couple of times when we were on the farm and I didn't have any coverage.
"One of my cousins was texting me through updates.
"It was certainly a break but you thought about it (playing Test rugby) from time to time.
"You think about what an incredible opportunity it is to represent Australia and as an immigrant I'm so grateful for all the opportunities I've had, to be able to pull on the green and gold and represent Australia.
"To do your best and also know you're representing so many people in Zimbabwe who have been part of the journey.
"It's a huge honour and something I certainly don't take for granted."
Depth remains a concern but with Pocock back and Will Genia and Kurtley Beale taking their games to another level, Australia is now blessed with a core of genuine world class players.
Folau, Michael Hooper and Adam Coleman - when he finds the right balance of aggression and discipline - are others that fit into that category while Taniela Tupou has limitless potential.
"I think you saw a good mix of some experienced heads with some exciting young guys coming through," said Pocock, who played in the unfamiliar No 6 jersey alongside Hooper and rookie No 8 Caleb Timu.
"I thought Caleb was great on debut and I love playing alongside Hoops.
"We've been working on that this week, trying to get the balance, trying to get the talk around the field, making sure we're fulfilling the roles.
"And then when Pete (Samu) came on he definitely made an impact."
With no injuries to report, you'd think Michael Cheika would name an unchanged starting line-up on Thursday.
The lineout is one area to tidy up but Pocock backed nervous rookie Brandon Paenga-Amosa to find his targets at AAMI Park.
"There will certainly be plenty of stuff we can improve around the lineout.
"A lot of new combos, a hooker on debut, I thought he was fantastic.
"You'll definitely forgive a couple of missed timings or whatever the case was.
"Scrum he was solid, got around the park well, he's got a physical presence."
And with the mystery of Cheika's waving cat solved, the final burning question was why Pocock's headgear kept coming off?
"The velcro is actually worn, I need to get it replaced," he admitted.
"After the game I was actually signing autographs and a woman came up who had an old headgear that I'd given away but it was better than the one I was playing in.
"So I actually swapped around and I'll definitely wear that headgear in Melbourne.
"I've only got a couple so I try and get the most life out of them."