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Dublin: 0 °C Sunday 17 November, 2019

'We've got the jokers, the lovers, the fighters, a team of diversity'

David Pocock ‘is a really interesting character,’ says Michael Cheika.

Murray Kinsella reports from London

DAVID POCOCK CAUSED untold havoc for Argentina yesterday, shed what seemed like litres of his own blood and generally augmented the argument that he is the best player in the world.

David Pocock Pocock was rampant for the Wallabies yesterday. Source: James Crombie/INPHO

Such was his barely-credible impact in doing damage that he even managed to injure one of his own teammates, Israel Folau coming off the worse for Pocock’s kamikaze tackle on Joaquín Tuculet in the second half.

After creating that storm in Twickenham, Pocock went back to Australia’s team hotel, put the feet up and watched a couple of episodes of David Attenborough’s ‘Africa’ series on his laptop.

It’s wonder he could keep his eyes open through exhaustion and the bruising of his face, but the juxtaposition of battering himself in a rugby match and then calmly engaging with a nature documentary is pure Pocock.

In an Australia squad full of men with different backgrounds and characteristics, Pocock remains somewhat unique. An activist against homophobia and a man who publicly worries about climate change, the 27-year-old is a little different to the average professional sportsperson.

We’ve got a team of diversity,” said Michael Cheika this afternoon at the Lensbury Hotel when asked about Pocock.

“We’ve got people who have come from all different sorts of lands, their origins, as well as very different characters. I think we’ve got the extreme right, and we’ve got the extreme left to set them right in the way we think.

“We’ve got the jokers, the lovers, the fighters. David is a really interesting character. It’s been really good for me as I’ve got to know him a bit better. I’d only known him previously as an opponent, as opposed to somebody I train with.

“He’s a very interesting character away from the game, he’s just very interesting to talk to. His thoughts and the way he’s changing as well in his own evolution as a person and as a player.

David Pocock celebrates after the match The number eight was battered and bruised at the final whistle. Source: Billy Stickland/INPHO

“One of the big things for us is also about us growing up and maturing. He’s definitely an interesting guy and I really like that in teams. I like to have lots of different characters and people who think differently about everything.”

Pocock was born in Zimbabwe, growing up on a farm before he and his family were forced to leave the country amidst violence against white-owned farms. Now the back row runs a charity, Eightytwenty Vision, to support farmers in the southern African nation.

Wallabies captain Stephen Moore has been playing Test rugby with Pocock since 2008, as well as at club level for the past two years, and appreciates the human side of the breakdown merchant as much as his rugby ability.

“I’ve played a lot of footy with Dave at the Brumbies as well, he’s the vice-captain there,” said Moore. “I’ve had a lot to do with him and he’s a quality person. I think we talk a lot about his footy but he’s a quality person as well off the field.

He adds a lot to our team away from the field and that’s what we’re finding at the moment.”

Moore laughs as he reveals that other members of the Wallabies’ squad were playing around with a Segway last night in the Lensbury as Pocock buried himself in the world of black rhinos and mountain gorillas.

“We’ve got a very diverse range of characters,” said Moore. “That’s what’s great about any team environment. We’re lucky to have that.”

While Moore admits he is among the more serious individuals in the group, Drew Mitchell and Matt Giteau – both of whom Cheika worked hard to reintegrate despite their being based in France – provide some of the laughs.

Michael Cheika Cheika feels he has a good blend of personalities. Source: Billy Stickland/INPHO

“There’s a lot of different characters in the squad,” said Moore. “Drew Mitchell is a guy that probably didn’t think he’d be involved in this team and get this opportunity. He brings a huge amount of character to the team.

“He’s always joking and keeping a look at the lighter side of everything. That probably balances everything out.”

One of Cheika’s greatest attributes, according to Moore, is the ability to accommodate and encourage all personality types within the Wallabies squad. There are certainly a number of non-negotiables in terms of work rate, concentration and application, but the former Leinster coach is an understanding leader.

Seven weeks may not seem like a long time on the outside, but part of the reason Australia are in a World Cup final is their ability to function as a group within the pressures of this campaign.

“I think he’s very good at that,” said Moore, “he certainly allows different characters to express themselves. We don’t have any rules around the place I guess, we’ve just got common sense and everyone doing their job really well, respecting each other.

“There’s sometimes a tendency to want to do the same thing. Over my career I’ve learned a lot about that, just allowing each character to express themselves in different ways. I’ve learned a lot from Cheik about that and I think it’s a big contribution to a team.”

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About the author:

Murray Kinsella

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