Rugby-Championship

Pocock : All Black back row won’t miss McCaw

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Wallabies back rower David Pocock says that the All Black back row will not be weakened in the Rugby Championship by the retirement of champion Richie McCaw.

The Wallabies and All Blacks clash next weekend in the opening match of the Rugby Championship and Bledisloe Cup and Pocock is preparing for a tough back row battle.

McCaw retired after the Rugby World Cup after a 14 year international career which stretched back to 2001 and saw him win 148 caps.

Including the World Cup final Pocock and McCaw faced each other 16 times – with New Zealand winning 12 of the clashes.

Pocock started his international career coming off the bench in a number of matches to replace George Smith but towards the end of McCaw’s career the battle between the two back rowers made up much of the pre-match focus.

“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 told AAP.

“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 admitted that All Blacks coach Steve Hansen will have a touch decision on his hands with selection as he needs to choose between an in form Ardie Savea or McCaw long-time heir apparent Sam Cane.

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

Pocock will take a sabbatical next year and Wallabies coach Michael Cheika says that there is no long term plan to continue with the `Pooper’ back-row formation containing two openside flyers – Michael Hooper at No.7 and David Pocock at No.8.

“It’s really about being able to play with both (formations),” Cheika said.

“Being able to play with the two opensides in that format and also in a more traditional back row. We haven’t decided,” Cheika said.

Pocock was injured at the time of the June Internationals with a fractured eye socket but is expected to start next weekend.

The All Blacks will prepare for the opening match for almost a full week before kick off as they arrive in Sydney on Sunday which is a change from the norm as they traditionally arrive a few days before the match.

“They are obviously very serious about continuing their domination. That’s why they are here early,” Cheika said.

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