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Pocock out-flanking McCaw as pre-eminent breakaway

 New Zealand All Black captain Richie McCaw runs during training in Auckland, New Zealand, Wednesday, Sept. 7, 2011. The All Blacks will play Tonga in...
 Australia rugby player David Pocock answers questions during a press conference ahead of the the Rugby World Cup in  Auckland, New Zealand, Thursday,...
 Australia rugby player David Pocock answers questions during a press conference ahead of the the Rugby World Cup in  Auckland,  New Zealand, Thursday...

New Zealand WCUP Rugby World Cup

New Zealand All Black captain Richie McCaw runs during training in Auckland, New Zealand, Wednesday, Sept. 7, 2011. The All Blacks will play Tonga in...

New Zealand WCUP Rugby World Cup Australia

Australia rugby player David Pocock answers questions during a press conference ahead of the the Rugby World Cup in Auckland, New Zealand, Thursday,...

New Zealand WCUP Rugby World Cup Australia

Australia rugby player David Pocock answers questions during a press conference ahead of the the Rugby World Cup in Auckland, New Zealand, Thursday...

First the Tri-Nations title, now Richie McCaw's mantle as the pre-eminent openside flanker in the world. David Pocock is starting to make a habit of pilfering New Zealand's more treasured rugby jewels.
Less than two weeks after helping Australia win its first Tri-Nations since 2001, Pocock was rated by All Blacks great Josh Kronfeld as a currently superior to McCaw in an assessment that is being viewed in these parts as almost sacrilege while New Zealand prepares to host the Rugby World Cup.
Kronfeld, who played at two World Cups as he earned 54 caps in six years, told The Times of London that Pocock deserves his elevated status.
"A good No. 7 can make or break a team," Kronfeld said. "Look at David Pocock. He is the form No.7 of the world at the moment, a master."
Pocock was taken aback by the praise from one of the All Blacks' great open-side flankers, a long list that also includes Michael Jones, Graham Mourie, Waka Nathan _ and McCaw, who will lead New Zealand into the tournament's opening match against Tonga on Friday.
"It's great coming from a guy like Josh Kronfeld. He was a legend," Pocock said Thursday. "That is something come from him. But you've just got to focus on your own game. Even Richie not as his best is pretty good. I reckon he'll put in a good performance this weekend, and he leads the team well."
Asked about his recollections of past Wallaby fetchers like Simon Poidevin, Jeff Miller and David Wilson, it was the headgear-sporting Kronfeld that struck a defining chord with Pocock when he was a child.
"I remember watching him when I would have been at primary school," said Pocock, who was born and spent his early childhood in Zimbabwe before moving to Australia in high school. "I guess I watched so much rugby growing up that he really stood out with his headgear. He was one of those loosies who was always in sight because he'd follow the wingers, whether it would be Jonah (Lomu) or whoever, and when they got tackled near the line they'd pop the ball up to him and he'd score the try.
"He's a legend of the game. But I think I've got a way to go yet," to reach that level.
The next chance Pocock gets to add to his burgeoning reputation will be in Australia's opening match against Italy in Auckland on Sunday.
Australia required a bit of magic from Quade Cooper on debut to beat Italy 30-20 at Padova in 2008, two years after the Wallabies had scraped to a 25-18 win in Rome. So there is little chance of any complacency, especially since Italy upset France in this year's Six Nations.
The Wallabies failed to add the Bledisloe Cup to their trophy cabinet this season after being comfortably beaten in Auckland due largely to a tendency to drift across field with the ball while under pressure from the onrushing All Blacks defense.
Having watched Italy's ambush of France at Stadio Flamino, Pocock is wary of the Azzurri employing similar tactics.
"The Italians build pressure really well," he said. "I thought they forced the French to play laterally and their defense is really good at shutting that down. And they took the points when they're on offer. They build that lead on the scoreboard and make teams chase them. They've proven they can close out a bit game like that, so they're definitely one of the teams that's improved the most in the past four years.
"Discipline is definitely a big focus for us, particularly at scrum time. That's when they like to force a lot of penalties. We saw in the game versus Scotland a couple of weeks ago, they did that very well. Got a lot of penalties, got a lot of really good go-forward ball with (Sergio) Parisse running, so that's something we're going to have to work on."


Updated : 2021-01-17 15:33 GMT+08:00