The girl from the Old El Paso ads may have the answer to the Wallabies’ openside flanker dilemma: Why can’t we have both?
A compelling argument is building for Michael Hooper and David Pocock to start in the same side after the pair combined brilliantly to spark Australia’s come-from-behind Test victory over South Africa in the Rugby Championship opener.
As coach Michael Cheika weighs up his options ahead of their next assignment in Argentina next weekend, calls are mounting for a back-row re-jig to allow vice-captain Hooper and master pilferer Pocock to line up together.
Starting at No.7, Hooper was a tackling machine against the Springboks and also reminded of his attacking threat by scoring the key try that brought the Wallabies to within striking distance late on.
Pocock came on for Scott Higginbotham in the 45th minute and despite playing out of position at No.8, made an immediate and irresistible impact in helping swing back the momentum at the breakdown, where Australia had been outmuscled earlier in the game.
Speaking before the team’s departure from Brisbane on Sunday morning, Cheika said it would be “no risk” playing the two together, with back-up plans already formulated for the potential impact on line-out options.
“Why I say it’s no risk is because they’re quality players,” Cheika said.
“We’ve prepared (for) that situation, of Willy Skelton, Pocock and Hooper all playing together.
“We knew what we were doing there, which is good, and we were still able to get our ball.”
Higginbotham was underwhelming on Saturday night and could easily be sacrificed to allow the Hooper-Pocock dream team to form in Mendoza.
Pocock, who was making his Test return after two injury-wrecked seasons, said he would be happy to play at No.8 if Cheika wanted him to.
“I loved getting back out there,” Pocock said.
“Unfamiliar at 8, but I made the most of it and really enjoyed working alongside Hoops. I thought he had a massive game, attack and defence he was everywhere.
“All those decisions are up to them and how they see things working and what’s best for the team.”
Captain Stephen Moore said it was a good problem to have.
“They’re both world class. We’ve got two quality blokes there,” Moore said.