NZ back row strong without McCaw: Pocock

He won’t be bumping bodies with old adversary Richie McCaw in next week’s Rugby Championship and Bledisloe Cup opener, but Wallabies dynamo David Pocock has warned New Zealand still have plenty of back row quality.

Openside flanker McCaw retired after New Zealand’s World Cup final win over Australia last year, drawing a curtain on arguably the greatest rugby union career in history.

The champion flanker was an almighty pest to opposing sides with his pilfering ability at the breakdown and had plenty of massive tussles in that area with Pocock in recent years.

“He was a feature for as long as I can remember, watching and playing, so certainly it’s a different (New Zealand) back row combination there,” Pocock said on Friday.

“But from what we’ve seen during Super Rugby and the June Tests, there’s certainly no shortage of talent in that area for the New Zealand team.”

Pocock acknowledged All Blacks coach Steve Hansen had a difficult decision to make between McCaw’s long-time heir apparent Sam Cane and Ardie Savea, who was a standout player in the Hurricanes charge to the Super Rugby title.

“They are both very talented, I guess it’s the kind of headache you want as a coach,” Pocock said.

“Ardie has been one of the form players of the Super Rugby comp this year, so it will be really interesting to see what happens there.”

With Pocock off on a sabbatical next year,Wallabies coach Michael Cheika said there was no long-term plan to permanently stick with the `Pooper’ back row formation he used at the World Cup, where Pocock played at No.8 and Michael Hooper at openside flanker.

“There’s no advantage for us that we’re going to go one way or the other and stick to that,” Cheika said.

“I think we like the idea of having to play both ways, having both options.”

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