Pocock’s game won’t suffer now he’s captain

David Pocock is conscious of not sacrificing his own game in his effort to lead Western Force this year.

Regarded as a future Wallabies captain, Pocock has taken over the reins of Western Force from foundation skipper and second-rower Nathan Sharpe. Arguably the best openside flanker in the world, Pocock will need to lead by example if the Force is to be competitive in the Super Rugby competition this year.

“It’s a new challenge, but the focus is on us as a team,” Pocock said in Canberra ahead of the Force’s season-opening game against the Brumbies on Friday night.

“The important thing is to continue to play well as an individual.

“There’s game-management stuff that comes with being captain, but we have some experienced guys and a lot of responsibility will be spread over the group.”

Pocock’s ability to dominate the breakdown will be a key factor in the game. New Brumbies coach Jake White, who guided the Springboks to the 2007 Rugby World Cup win, has shown in his selection of the backrow that he intends to take care of Pocock South African-style.

Instead of starting a “fetcher” like Michael Hooper to compete with Pocock on the ground, White has opted for the bigger and stronger Ita Vaea in the No 7 jersey.

The only way to keep Pocock off the ball at the breakdown is to clean him out at every opportunity and that’s what the physical Brumbies backrow of captain Ben Mowen, blindside flanker Peter Kimlin and Vaea will try to do.

“Pocock is a world class seven, dominant at the breakdown,” Mowen said.

“We are aware of his ability, but if we focus on the detail of our breakdown work, we will get the results we are after.

“If you let him have his way, he’ll cut you to shreds.”

White has introduced elements of the Springboks’ style of play to the Brumbies, which means they will be more forward-oriented than in the past.

“I definitely feel our forward pack has played an abrasive style in the two trials (against the Brumbies and the Queensland Reds),” Mowen said.

“I guess it has something to do with Jake being South African, but it has also got a lot to do with Laurie Fisher (forwards coach), who has come back from Europe where they play a forward-oriented game. The hard work will be done first. The backs will put the polish on it.”

Pocock noticed the Brumbies’ new style in the Force’s 26-0 loss to them in their trial in Darwin a few weeks ago. “Jake has done a great job with the Brumbies from what I’ve seen in the trials,” Pocock said.

“There is good structure in place and knowledge of how they want to play. In the trials they played a different style. There was a focus on field position. That’s no surprise. It is what’s got Jake success in the past. It works.”

The Force will field eight Wallabies to the Brumbies’ two, but Pocock was wary of their unknown quantity.

“They have a lot of players who have been in their system, but haven’t had an opportunity at Super Rugby level,” Pocock said. “They will be keen to make a name for themselves.

“We are expecting a fired up Brumbies side and one that is pretty well-drilled.”

by Buford Balony

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