Wallabies back-row a mystery to Pocock

David Pocock says he has no idea if Wallabies coach Michael Cheika will stick with the ‘Pooper’ back-row combination that worked so well at last year’s World Cup, or cook up an entirely new formula to tackle England in June.

Cheika went against his own instincts to select Pocock at No.8 and Michael Hooper at openside flanker last year, a move that paid handsome dividends in both the Rugby Championship and World Cup.

As if the competition for back-row spots wasn’t already the hottest in the team, the wildcard selection of Leroy Houston has added only further intrigue.

However, with both Pocock and Hooper in great form in Super Rugby, the pair – so integral in Australia’s World Cup pool win over England at Twickenham – is set to reform for the forthcoming three-Test series which begins in Brisbane on June 11.

Brumbies back-rower Scott Fardy, a regular at blindside flanker for the Wallabies over the past three seasons, is the front-runner to retain his No.6 jersey given his lineout skills and rugged presence at the breakdown.

Sean McMahon has a reasonable claim to a starting spot, having barely put a foot wrong for the Melbourne Rebels, and while Houston still has to prove himself, Cheika wouldn’t have lured him back from English club Bath if he didn’t intend to use him at some stage.

“You look around, there’s so much competition and as a player, that’s what you want,” Pocock said.

“It’s good for the squad.

“There’s no point trying to guess what Cheik’s thinking, just rip into training and see what happens.”

Then there’s Liam Gill, whose form at No.7 has been Wallaby-standard for the Queensland Reds over the last two seasons – but he remains stuck behind Hooper, Pocock, McMahon in the pecking order.

Gill intends to give his all in his first proper Wallabies camp under Cheika, knowing he will be ineligible for selection when he moves to French club rugby next year.

“I understand what’s in front of me, I’m well aware,” he said.

“It’ll be tough. I haven’t quite played under the structure he wants to play but hopefully with a couple of weeks under my belt, I’ll fit in nicely.

“I’ve just got to keep playing decent footy like I’ve tried to do this year and last year, come to camps, have a crack, put the ball back in his court – and if he goes down the same path he has been, then I’ve done everything I can.”

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