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Hooper: Pocock 'in fantastic shape'

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David Pocock 'in fantastic shape' as World Cup return looms

Wallabies captain Michael Hooper predicts David Pocock’s long injury-enforced absence won’t affect the form of the champion flanker, who he predicts will be at his dominant best at the World Cup.

Moments after the 31-man Australian squad was announced on Friday, coach Michael Cheika was batting away questions on his loose forward make-up for the big games in Japan.

Hooper was more forthcoming, issuing a warning to Australia’s opponents that Pocock was poised to return with a bang from the calf injury that has ruled the 31-year-old out of all rugby since March.

“He’s imminent to get on the field and play some minutes now. He’s going to do us no surprises when he comes back,” Hooper said.

“He’s physically in fantastic shape. Imagine when he hits the ground running, he’s going to be dominant again.”

International teammates for eight years, there is a strong chance the “Pooper” twin openside flanker combination of Hooper and Pocock will be reprised.

The pair were highly effective in Australia’s charge to the 2015 World Cup final at Twickenham, with Pocock’s adaption to No.8 that year seen as a tactical triumph for Cheika.

However, the coach was considering a host of options although his combinations are limited due to the inclusion of just five loose forwards for Japan.

Isi Naisarani had been among Australia’s most consistent players across all four Tests this year at No.8 while hulking blindside flanker Lukhan Salakaia-Loto had impressed in patches.

The fifth option is versatile Waratahs loose forward Jack Dempsey, a first-choice performer during last November’s tour of Europe.

“He’s got that little bit of X-factor, Jack,” Cheika said.

“He can cover multiple positions in a back row, even seven at a pinch if we had to. He’s done that before.

“He’s an aggressive style player and I think that’s going to be essential.”

AAP

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David Pocock 'in fantastic shape' as World Cup return looms