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Smith: No room for 'Pooper'

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No room for David Pocock and Michael Hooper in Australian lineup says Wallabies legend

Legendary flanker George Smith wants Wallabies coach Michael Cheika to persist with his recent back row combination, even if it means putting David Pocock on the bench.

The veteran loose forward returned from a calf injury to play his first test of the year in Australia’s final pre-World Cup hit out against Samoa in Sydney last weekend, an encouraging sign as Pocock embarks on a third World Cup campaign.

He also led the side in place of fellow openside flanker Michael Hooper, who was rested.

During his illustrious 111-test career Smith often started in the same back row as Phil Waugh, another specialist openside.

While Smith said Pocock and Hooper have worked well together he favoured the combination of blindside Lukhan Salakaia-Loto, Hooper and Isi Naisarani at No.8, the trio that started during the Rugby Championship and Bledisloe Cup series.

“I think the combination is working well, I think persisting with that would be great,” Smith said.

“Pocock has done a lot to get back to where he is now, so I can see them working together on the field at the one time, and also Pocock coming off the bench.”

Owen Finegan, a World Cup-winning Wallabies loose forward in 1999, disagreed, believing Pocock and Hooper should start together with Naisarani at No.8.

“I think with Isi, Pococok and Hooper you have a really dominant back row,” Finegan said.

“Australia got through to the 2003 World Cup (final) with Phil Waugh and George Smith so its been proven that you can get there,” he said, admitting the ploy could affect the Wallabies set piece.

Hooper and Pocock are both undersized lineout targets so the Wallabies would have to be “clever” to secure possession.

Finegan, who scored the Cup-clinching try against France at Cardiff 20 years ago, believed the current squad could deliver a third World Cup crown.

“The pressure is on the Wallabies and quite often that’s when you perform the best when your backs are against the wall and no one gives you a chance,” he said.

“I experienced that myself that myself in 1999, we definitely didn’t go into the World Cup as favourites.”

Smith, who played several years in Japan, said the tournament would be an interesting challenge for the competing nations.

“It’s going to be extremely hot and I think embracing the culture and embracing the people is definitely going to assist you,” he said.

AAP

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No room for David Pocock and Michael Hooper in Australian lineup says Wallabies legend