Wallabies boosted by Pocock’s returnComment on this story
Cardiff – Australia have named David Pocock at openside flanker for the one-off Test match against Wales on Saturday.
Pocock led Australia to a three-Test clean sweep of the Grand Slam champions in June, but has not appeared since injuring his knee during the Wallabies' opening match of the Rugby Championship against the All Blacks at Sydney in August.
Pocock's return means Michael Hooper, who has been outstanding in filling in on the flank, drops to the bench.
Nathan Sharpe will captain the Wallabies in his 116th and final Test, with coach Robbie Deans saying Pocock's return would provide the squad with fresh impetus.
“David is one of the best in the world as a player, and is growing every day as a leader, so naturally we are delighted to have him back,” said Deans.
“While he has continued to contribute off the field, this tour has been one of frustration for him, but we were not prepared to take any risks and potentially compromise either the player or the team, in terms of his fitness.
“The upside to the wait is that his return comes at a time where we need fresh energy, as was evident at times during our Test in Italy last weekend.”
The inclusion of Hooper on the bench could mean Australia will apply the tactic of using two “fetchers”, as they did in the summer against Wales.
“Michael (Hooper) has had a massive year and it was evident that for him, as well as some others, it was starting to take its toll last weekend,” said Deans.
“He's earned the right to finish the year on the park. Having the option of working him alongside David at some point during the contest is a win-win for us.”
The change on the openside is one of three alterations from the Wallabies' starting line-up during last weekend's 22-19 win over Italy.
Lock Kane Douglas returns from a knee injury to take over from the suspended Sitaleki Timani, while Tatafu Polota-Nau resumes at hooker.
The Australian bench includes the tour's newest arrival, Scotland-born Waratahs halfback Brendan McKibbin, who jetted in from Sydney on Tuesday.
While Hooper and hooker Stephen Moore have dropped back to the bench from last week's run on side, McKibbin is the only new player into the squad on the bench.
Deans said that Wales would be smarting from losses this November to Argentina, Samoa and New Zealand.
“Cornered beasts are always the most dangerous; they have nowhere else to go but straight ahead!” the Kiwi said.
“I've no doubt that Warren (Gatland) and his men will feel that way at the moment. They did some good things last weekend against New Zealand, and weren't always rewarded for them.
“Our recent history (against Wales) shows how little there is between the two sides. Our blokes won't need reminding of that.”
Berrick Barnes; Nick Cummins, Adam Ashley-Cooper, Ben Tapuai, Drew Mitchell; Kurtley Beale, Nick Phipps; Wycliff Palu, David Pocock, Scott Higginbotham; Nathan Sharpe (capt), Kane Douglas; Ben Alexander, Tatafu Polota Nau, Benn Robinson
Replacements: Stephen Moore, James Slipper, Sekope Kepu, Dave Dennis, Michael Hooper, Brendan McKibbin, Mike Harris, Digby Ioane – Sapa-AFP