David Pocock hopes a year away from Australian rugby will ultimately extend his illustrious career until at least the 2019 World Cup.
But what he’ll do in that time is still unclear.
The superstar Wallabies flanker turned down the chance to be the world’s highest-paid rugby player by recommitting to the Australian Rugby Union and Brumbies for 2018 and 2019.
Under the unprecedented deal, months in the making, Pocock will be released from his Super Rugby and national duties next year to pursue his own personal interests.
It’s a huge coup for both the ARU and Brumbies, who had been competing with overseas clubs offering more money than they could afford.
Among them was English outfit Wasps, who were reportedly prepared to pay him more than $2.8 million a season.
But Pocock said he was always keen to stay in Canberra.
“It’s a little bit unusual having some time off next year, so I guess that’s why it took a little bit longer,” he said from Cape Town on Wednesday.
There’s speculation Pocock will head to the United States or Cambridge or Oxford in the UK to study, and/or play a stint in Japan, France or England in 2017.
The 27-year-old, though, isn’t entirely sure what lay ahead.
“There’s been a bunch of things thrown out there but none of them are true that I’ve heard,” he said.
“We’ll wait and see. That’ll be the exciting thing, just getting away, freshening up and really coming back excited and hopefully physically and mentally good to go.
“This is my 11th season of professional rugby and I really want to continue, but I feel like a bit of a break will be good for the mind, good for the body and probably good for the soul too.”
Zimbabwean-born Pocock said his experience at last year’s World Cup, where he was arguably player of the tournament, was a huge part of why he chose to stay in Australia for a crack at the 2019 showpiece in Japan.
Both Brumbies coach Stephen Larkham and Wallabies mentor Michael Cheika were supportive of his decision to take 12 months off, and have been working closely with him on how he will transition back into the game in 2018.
“For him to commit to the end of 2019 shows he truly believes in the direction the Wallabies are heading in and how passionate he is about performing at his highest level for Australia,” Cheika said.
Larkham labelled Pocock one of the best rugby players in the world, and had shown over the past year how valuable he is to both the Brumbies and Wallabies on and off the field.
He had fought through some of the toughest times of his career with the club, namely two season-ending knee injuries since his arrival in 2013.
“We saw last year that after two years out of the game, he came back into Super Rugby and excelled at the next level as well (as at the World Cup),” Larkham said.
Pocock will be available for the remainder of the Super Rugby season, as well as Australia’s three-Test series against England in June, the Rugby Championship and the Wallabies’ end-of-year European tour.
He is slated to play in Sunday morning’s (AEDT) match against the Stormers in Cape Town despite breaking his nose in last week’s win over the Western Force in Perth.