Pocock ready to break down Wales after doing homework
Fit … David Pocock. Photo: Getty Images
CARDIFF: Returning breakaway David Pocock says the breakdown will be the defining battle zone between Australia and Wales at Millennium Stadium on Saturday.
Pocock makes his long-awaited return to the starting side after passing numerous fitness tests and training sessions before the Wallabies' spring tour finale in Cardiff.
Breakaway Michael Hooper moves to the bench with hooker Stephen Moore after coach Robbie Deans named Tatafu Polota-Nau to start in the front row. They are the only changes to the side which narrowly beat Italy in Florence last week.
Pocock has spent the past four weeks working with other squad members preparing dossiers on opposition teams while he recovered from the calf strain that delayed his return to playing before the Test against France last month.
''The guys who haven't been playing have been previewing the next team and working on some stuff for a week ahead and then presenting that to the group,'' he said. ''There's seven or so guys who aren't taking the field but they're doing a lot of extra stuff away from the field.''
Pocock said Wales' last match, a 33-10 loss to the All Blacks, was a pointer to the importance of dominating the breakdown against the Warren Gatland-coached side on Saturday.
''It was pretty ferocious and it's going to be the same on Saturday night,'' he said. ''It's really a team effort and it will obviously be a focus for us, so that's going to be somewhere we're going to have to do well and secure ball and hopefully put them under pressure.''
The Wallabies have run hot and cold on that aspect of their game over the past three Tests but Pocock said it would take ''urgency'' and accuracy to win the contest against the Welsh. ''When you're over-committing you're short in other areas, so I think it's guys just doing their job,'' he said. ''At times we've been really good at that but there's definitely room for improvement.''
The Wallabies will start Kane Douglas in the second row with captain Nathan Sharpe, who will play his last game of rugby. Douglas has recovered from a knee injury to fill in for Sitaleki Timani after the giant forward was suspended for a week for striking Italy's Andrea Lo Cicero in Florence last week.
Another second-rower, Rob Simmons, had his eight-week suspension reduced to five, two weeks of which he has already served.
To cap an interesting month of judiciary decisions by the Six Nations committee, All Blacks forward Andrew Hore was banned for five weeks for a blow on Welsh second-rower Bradley Davies last week.
The punch from behind in the opening minute left Davies in hospital with severe concussion, ruling him out of the Wallabies match.
Hore pleaded guilty to foul play at a judicial hearing and his suspension rules him out of the All Blacks' clash against England at Twickenham. But because the ban also takes in three pre-season matches next year, the new Highlanders captain will miss only one Super Rugby match - against the Chiefs on February 22.
''Firstly, I want to say how bad I feel and embarrassed for being in this situation,'' Hore said in London after the penalty was handed down.
''It's not the All Black way. I've let myself down and the team, and probably the whole country that is pretty proud of what we do.''
The 34-year-old, a veteran of 74 Tests, said the All Blacks management, as well as the leadership group he was part of, had been ''pretty stern on me'' for what had happened.
Australia: Berrick Barnes, Nick Cummins, Adam Ashley-Cooper, Ben Tapuai, Drew Mitchell, Kurtley Beale, Nick Phipps, Wycliff Palu, David Pocock, Scott Higginbotham, Nathan Sharpe (capt), Kane Douglas, Ben Alexander, Tatafu Polota Nau, Benn Robinson. Res: Stephen Moore, James Slipper, Sekope Kepu, Dave Dennis, Michael Hooper, Brendan McKibbin, Mike Harris, Digby Ioane.
Wales: Leigh Halfpenny; Alex Cuthbert, Jonathan Davies, Jamie Roberts, Liam Williams; Rhys Priestland, Mike Phillips; Toby Faletau, Sam Warburton (capt), Aaron Shingler; Luke Charteris, Ian Evans; Scott Andrews, Matthew Rees, Gethin JenkinsReplacements: Ken Owens, Ryan Bevington, Samson Lee, Ryan Jones, Justin Tipuric, Tavis Knoyle, Dan Biggar, Scott Williams