Pocock proves worth in seamless comeback
DAVID Pocock never felt finished as a Wallaby even when eyeballing a bull elephant in remote Zimbabwe where his Test updates trickled through by text last year.
The muscular flanker is a marvel and not just because he's added 20 per cent to the fear factor that the Wallabies will stir in opponents worldwide after tormenting Ireland.
A senior batsman away from cricket's Test arena for 18 months invariably loses timing and his batting average dips yet here was Pocock ruling Suncorp Stadium like he'd never left.
It wasn't only the 15 tackles, three turnovers, seven obstinate ball-carries, his calm and the match-clinching try on Saturday night but the lift he gave every teammate.
"Players like Dave never lose their touch with the game... he's special and it's like he's never left the gold jersey," Kurtley Beale said of the 67-Test warhorse.
The value of that 18-9 statement against the world's No.2 team was immense ahead of the second Test in Melbourne on Saturday.
Finally, this was a Wallabies team starting the Test season in full-blast September form, not with a rusty loosener, and with the temperament to handle the adversity of a poor no-try call.
Maybe this no-excuses culture that coach Michael Cheika talks of can be real.
Pocock and Hooper have now won nine of the 15 Tests they have paired together in the backrow and, fitness willing, they are here to stay for a second World Cup in Japan next year.
On his conservation-slanted break in his Zimbabwean homeland last year, Pocock stood in awe of a wild bull elephant 10m away on one guided national park walk.
"With no wi-fi on the farm, my cousin was texting updates of games I wasn't seeing this time a year ago," Pocock said of last year's hot-and-cold June Tests.
"Even with a fair bit going on over there you do think about what an incredible opportunity it is to represent Australia."
His Test career might have been finished but he never doubted that the formula of an African adventure-Japanese season-Brumbies comeback would refresh him for the Wallabies.
"You just back yourself that if you are doing all the prep, physically and mentally, you'll get back to your best," Pocock said.
The first Test furnace was no place for mild comebacks with huge hits like Hooper's which left kid fly half Joey Carbery winded on the turf.
"There weren't a lot of people talking about the Australian physicality before the game but you saw how physical they were in the first 10 to 15 minutes," Irish skipper Peter O'Mahony said.
New No. 8 Caleb Timu shouldered a strong 14-tackle workload and won a lineout expertly to show worthy extra skills on a night where his running game wasn't employed.
"I thought Caleb was excellent and I always love playing with Hoops so it was a good start for the combination but something you always want to improve on," Pocock said.
When the Wallabies had a rotten obstruction call rule out a Marika Koroibete try at Twickenham last year, the players and coach lost it in a similarly tight contest.
When another know-all video review official ruled no-try on Israel Folau, after Adam Coleman had merely tackled a decoy player, the Wallabies were asked to learn the lesson.
They went up two gears in style.
The bold Hooper call that won a Test of huge collisions, when poised at 11-9, was perfectly coded..."Ballsy."
The skipper joked that was the name off the tap-penalty option, bestowed by Cheika and his coaching crew, when the flanker decided on gambling for a try rather than take a penalty goal.
"That was almost the name of the call...the boss came up with it," Hooper said with a grin.
Pocock knows the Irish will step it up in the second Test when classy Johnny Sexton is expected to be back at fly half
"Ireland are a fantastic team, they are not No. 2 in the world for nothing and they'll be much improved in Melbourne," Pocock said