New Zealand v Australia, Rugby World Cup, October 16
Pocock predicts breakdown battle
ESPNscrum Staff
October 12, 2011
Australia flanker David Pocock juggles the ball during a training session at North Harbour Stadium, Auckland, New Zealand, October 12, 2011
Australia flanker David Pocock has accepted the semi-final against New Zealand could be won or lost at the breakdown © Getty Images

Australian flanker David Pocock believes the breakdown battle will be key to deciding his side's Rugby World Cup semi-final clash with New Zealand at Eden Park on Sunday.

The headline-grabbing 23-year-old, who has tasted victory just twice in 11 meetings with New Zealand, was a key figure as the Wallabies edged out South Africa in the quarter-finals and he realises that another big performance will be needed this weekend.

"It is fairly standard these days for openside flankers to cop a bit of heat from the opposition, I mean, they've got Richie McCaw, so it is going to be a really important part of the game. Both teams know that and in the past it has been a big part of the winning team... the way they've played, they've dominated the breakdown."

Zimbabwean-born Pocock missed the Wallabies' shock defeat to Ireland in the pool stages but returned in emphatic style and has been arguably his side's most influential figure. He made 27 tackles against the Springboks, missing none, and, having spent most of the afternoon bent over at the breakdown, he was credited with three turnovers.

Now rivalling McCaw as one of the world's best openside flankers, Pocock has learned the downside to success too with accusations of cheating similar to those that have dogged the All Blacks captain for many years. "I think it's fairly standard for most No. 7's," Pocock said. "It's been pretty funny checking Twitter for the South African fans, it's all been in good humour."

Another thing Pocock has perhaps learned from McCaw is that No. 7's should always pay their respects to the opposition and crucially the referee before the game. "The All Blacks probably have a different set of threats," he said. "They use a bit more footwork and you probably have to say that their work at the breakdown, across the board, is probably a bit better and more contested. We're going to have to step up at the breakdown again and Craig Joubert's a great ref, so we're expecting him to be good there."

Many pundits are wondering whether Pocock is now a better player than the injury-plagued McCaw, but ever the consummate professional, Pocock straight-batted the question. "I don't get involved in that kind of thing, it's such a big game for the team, and that's pretty much all I'm focusing on at the moment."

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