Wallabies captain Michael Hooper is unsurprised at David Pocock’s classy return to rugby and is tipping his long-time comrade to be an influential figure at the World Cup in Japan.
Hooper insists he has no preference what back row mix is chosen for their opening pool game against Fiji in Sapporo next week and believes the selectors may consider different combinations for different opposition.
Coach Michael Cheika has given nothing away when quizzed on whether he’ll retain the trio of Hooper, Isi Naisarani and Lukhan Salakaia-Loto, who started in the first four Tests this year, or if a place will be found for Pocock.
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Champion breakdown exponent Pocock impressed on return against Samoa in Sydney last week, having been out of rugby for six months recovering from a calf injury.
Hooper, who sat out the Samoan Test, wasn’t surprised.
“He didn’t miss a trick – as expected,” he told journalists at the team’s Odawara training base.
“He’s come off long breaks before and done outstanding. He keeps himself in such outstanding condition and I only expect him to go up, personally.
“These are the competitions where he does so well, so looking forward to seeing what he puts out there.”
The “Pooper” combination was a success at the 2015 World Cup, with Pocock employed at No.8 through most of a campaign that ended in defeat in the final.
Former Wallabies openside great George Smith this week said that Pocock should be on the bench, for at least the first two games, because of the consistently impressive output from this year’s back row.
With Cheika sitting alongside him at a press conference, Hooper was reluctant to offer an opinion.
“There’s benefits whatever way the selectors decide to go. Dave and I have played a lot together but I think we can improve in that combination. I think there’s still some more to get out of games,” he said.
“Hopefully we’ll have some games to do that.”
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