This time last year, David Pocock was working on a farm in his native Zimbabwe, taking a break from rugby and relying on his cousin to text him with Wallabies updates.
After a standout performance in Brisbane on Saturday in his first Test match in 18 months, the Ireland camp will be wishing he had extended his sabbatical a little longer.
Pocock, 30, put in a tour de force performance at Suncorp Stadium as the Wallabies went 1-0 up in their Test series with the Six Nations champions thanks to an 18-9 win secured by the flanker’s 72nd-minute try, his first for Australia since the 2015 World Cup final.
In tandem with captain and fellow flanker Michael Hooper, Pocock dominated the breakdown with a display bristling with aggression, physicality, and accuracy that has left the tourists with plenty to think about ahead of Saturday’s second Test in Melbourne.
If there were any doubts as to whether he could revisit the heights he had reached before his time out from the game spent not just farming but also pursuing his interest in animal conservation in the land of his birth, Pocock showed no signs of it against Ireland.
“I guess you back your preparation. You back the work that you’ve put in and once you get out there you just doing your best and enjoying and seeing what happens.
Pocock admitted yesterday that he had not spent too much time during 2017 worrying about the career he had put on hold but it made his return to Test rugby all the more poignant.
“There were a couple of times when we were on the farm and didn’t have any coverage and one of my cousins was texting me through updates. That was in June, so I didn’t actually see any of the games but I got a few updates. There was a fair bit going on over there — it was certainly a break.
“You thought about it (rugby) from time to time and I guess you think about what an incredible opportunity it is to represent Australia and as an immigrant I’m so grateful for the opportunities I’ve had. So to be able to pull on the green and gold and represent Australia and get out there and do your best and know that you’re also representing so many people in Zimbabwe who have been part of the journey.
“It’s a huge honour and something I certainly don’t take for granted.”
Nor is he expecting the series with Ireland to be a done deal after drawing first blood in the best of three showdown.
“It was good to start off with a win but I think they’re not number two in the world for nothing.
“They will be a much-improved team in Melbourne.
“(Physicality) is something that’s crucial at this level. Test matches are physical and the games are often won and lost there. Ireland are a big side. I thought they were also very physical. I’m sure game two is going to be the same.”
There were times during Saturday’s game that it felt as if Pocock was hitting every breakdown in a rapid-fire game, either poaching more than his share of opposition ball, earning his team penalties or at the very least slowing Irish ball down considerably.
“It’s one of those things, you know. You’ve got to pick and choose and then back yourself if you see the opportunity.
“That was the plan. I don’t know, I haven’t seen the game again. We’ll review and there’s always ways to improve again in that area. We have to be better in the second game for sure.”
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