Eyeing a final Test against All Blacks legend Richie McCaw on Australian soil, flanker David Pocock says intense competition within the Wallabies ranks is bringing out the best in his own game.
Following the 34-9 Rugby Championship win over Argentina in Mendoza, Pocock was named players’ player by his teammates.
Making his first Test start since 2012 after a series of serious knee injuries, the 27-year-old ran amok against the Pumas, forcing a number of crucial turnovers as well as midfield charges.
He earnt strong praise from coach Michael Cheika, who described his performance as “excellent”.
Pocock will face a much larger challenge should he get the nod to line up against New Zealand skipper McCaw when the unbeaten teams meet in a Rugby Championship title decider at Sydney’s ANZ Stadium on August 8.
McCaw is retiring after the World Cup later this year, making the Test his Australian swan-song.
He showed he’s still got the magic touch, scoring the match-winning try in the thriller against South Africa in Johannesburg on the weekend.
“It’s always a big occasion playing the All Blacks and he’s been right up there for a very long time,” Pocock said.
“He’s a player I really respect and relish those moments.”
Similarly to when he started out in Test rugby and George Smith was the incumbent, Pocock faces fierce competition to wear the No.7 jersey from Waratah Michael Hooper.
The pair have taken a turn each starting this Rugby Championship, with Hooper coming on after 50 minutes against the Pumas and Pocock shifting to No.8.
He said he hadn’t played there “since under 12s”, but looked right at home.
Pocock said the duel with Hooper was great for the Wallabies and their World Cup hopes.
“Competition is exactly what you want to be having,” Pocock said.
“The only year we were struggling was in 2011 going into the World Cup and we only took one No.7 and that stung us a bit.
“It’s great with Hoops out there because we enjoy feeding off each other.
“You also got guys like Sean McMahon waiting for an opportunity so it’s been pretty intense at training.”
Cheika also gave the new combination the thumbs post match and looked set to repeat it in Sydney.
“I really like the way he and Hooper were working together when he came on,” Cheika said.
“They understand the roles they have to play and share.”