After a year’s sabbatical from rugby, David Pocock returned to infuriate Ireland during Australia's 18-9 victory yesterday.
Pocock is an outstanding traditional back-row. At times he lined out in the scrum at 7, but for the most part, he worked in combination with Michael Hooper to terrorize Ireland's breakdown. His tackle count was also an impressive 15 in total.
Pocock's main influence comes at ruck time. He got on the wrong side of Marius van der Westhuizen more than once as his absurd ability to maintain balance low to the floor was mistaken as off his feet.
David Pocock has to be one of the best players I’ve seen live. It’s like he had never been away. Pure class.
— Ian Frizzell (@rava_ian) June 9, 2018
Learns from #AUSvIRL:
1. I've missed you David Pocock 😍
2. Irish selection backfired
3. Joe Schmidt needs to get himself a Japanese waving cat good luck charm like Michael Cheika's.
— Tim Cocker (@cocker) June 9, 2018
Speaking to TEN Sport after the game, Michael Hooper praised Pocock's contribution: "He was outstanding. He can do some great things over the ball, just his presence on the field is fantastic."
Will Genia also welcomed the return of the 30-year-old.
It is incredible. I said to him before the game 'I missed playing with you.' He's one of my good mates, someone I played all my junior rugby with throughout my career. To have him back on the field and doing what we love doing together is very special.
However, not everyone is delighted to see the Australian return. Former Irish international Neil Francis criticised Pocock's tendency to slow the game down in his Sunday Independent column.
I think David Pocock is a cancer on the game. Yes, I do have a grudging admiration for all his abilities and it is great when you have a player like that in your side... he had six legal turnovers and three illegal turnovers, and he and his buddy Michael Hooper managed to slow the ball down more than enough to stop rhythm that Ireland looked like they were beginning to achieve.
From an Irish perspective, the return of a traditional seven to combat Pocock will be crucial next week in Melbourne. Dan Leavy can expect to return to the fold, while Joe Schmidt has another decision to make in the back five, with Tadhg Beirne's versatility suggesting he could push for his debut.
The frightening reality is that Pocock appears refreshed after his stint abroad and still only 30, looks set to improve ahead of a World Cup next year.