Wales v Australia, Cardiff, December 1
Pocock returns for Wallabies
ESPN Staff
November 29, 2012
Australia flanker David Pocock watches a penalty attempt, England v Australia, Twickenham, London, England, November 13, 2010
David Pocock has not appeared for Australia since picking up an injury in their Rugby Championship opener in August © Getty Images
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Australia's David Pocock will make his long-awaited return to international action against Wales on Saturday.

Pocock led the Wallabies to a series clean sweep of Wales in June but has not appeared since injuring his knee during their opening Rugby Championship clash with New Zealand in August. The 24-year-old was scheduled to make his return earlier on the current tour but was held back after sustaining a mild calf strain. Pocock's return sees the in-form Michael Hooper drop to the bench but lock Nathan Sharpe will retain the captaincy for what will be his 116th and final Test.

"David is one of the best in the world as a player, and is growing every day as a leader, so naturally we are delighted to have him back," said Wallabies coach Robbie Deans. "While he has continued to contribute off the field, this tour has been one of frustration for him, but we were not prepared to take any risks and potentially compromise either the player or the team, in terms of his fitness. The upside to the wait is that his return comes at a time where we need fresh energy, as was evident at times during our Test in Italy last weekend."

But Hooper can expect to play a role and cap and outstanding rookie year. "Michael [Hooper] has had a massive year and it was evident that for him, as well as some others, it was starting to take its toll last weekend," Deans said. "He's earned the right to finish the year on the park. Having the option of working him alongside David at some point during the contest is a win-win for us."

The change at openside is one of three alterations to the side that edged out Italy 22-19 win in Florence last weekend. The others see lock Kane Douglas return from a knee injury to take over from the suspended Sitaleki Timani, while Tatafu Polota-Nau reclaims his place at hooker.

The bench includes the tour's newest arrival, Waratahs scrum-half Brendan McKibbin, who jetted in from Sydney this week and will make his Wallabies debut if called into action. Hooper and hooker Stephen Moore have dropped onto the bench from last week's run on side.

Despite Wales' recent woe that has included defeats at the hands of Argentina, Samoa and New Zealand, Deans is not taking them lightly. "You don't win two Grand Slams in the last four years [2008 & 2012] while also making the semi-finals of the Rugby World Cup without being a quality outfit, and a resilient one," Deans said.

"If we were in their situation, I know the response I would be expecting. Cornered beasts are always the most dangerous; they have nowhere else to go but straight ahead! I've no doubt that [Wales coach] Warren [Gatland] and his men will feel that way at the moment. They did some good things last weekend against New Zealand, and weren't always rewarded for them. Our recent history [against Wales] shows how little there is between the two sides. Our blokes won't need reminding of that."

Australia: Berrick Barnes; Nick Cummins, Adam Ashley-Cooper, Ben Tapuai, Drew Mitchell; Kurtley Beale, Nick Phipps, Benn Robinson, Tatafu Polota Nau, Ben Alexander, Kane Douglas, Nathan Sharpe (capt), Scott Higginbotham, David Pocock, Wycliff Palu

Replacements: Stephen Moore, James Slipper, Sekope Kepu, Dave Dennis, Michael Hooper, Brendan McKibbin, Mike Harris, Digby Ioane

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