Rugby

Pocock returns for Euro tour

2012-10-25 07:46
David Pocock (AFP)

Sydney - Loose forward David Pocock will make a welcome return to the injury-depleted Wallabies ranks next month after being named in the squad for the four-Test tour of Europe on Thursday.

The openside flank was one of a string of top Australia players absent for all or part of the southern hemisphere international season but returns to the 30-strong party for Tests against France, England, Italy and Wales.

Pocock, who suffered a knee injury in August, captained Australia during their 3-0 sweep of Six Nations champions Wales in June but lock Nathan Sharpe, who agreed to postpone his retirement to go on the tour, will remain as skipper.

Coach Robbie Deans told reporters that Pocock, whose absence has been mitigated by a string of impressive performances from Michael Hooper, was unlikely to be fit to face France but should be available for the remaining three matches.

"Poey has done very well... he's still got a bit to do in terms of being available to be selected but he's clearly going to be available and hence he's coming with us," the New Zealander said.

Also returning from injury is experienced hooker Stephen Moore, who has been sidelined by a hamstring injury since the defeat to the All Blacks in Auckland in late August.

"As well as being proven test performers with valuable experience in the conditions that we will face on this tour, both also provide a significant leadership element which will add to what is still a relatively young group," Deans added.

Berrick Barnes, who has started at flyhalf in all five Tests against Wales played over the last year, also returns to the squad after missing the win over Argentina and last weekend's 18-18 draw with New Zealand with a lung problem.

Blindside flanker Scott Higginbotham has been left out of the squad after being banned for two of the tour matches for a headbutt on All Blacks captain Richie McCaw in Brisbane last Saturday. Higginbotham will be on standby in case of injuries.

"To have included Scott within the 30 would have created an additional challenge in terms of selection for the opening two matches, which would have compromised the group," Deans said.

"Scott was aware once he was suspended that this was a possibility."

Deans is still without several regular first choice players including lock James Horwill, scrumhalf Will Genia, estranged flyhalf Quade Cooper as well as versatile back James O'Connor.

Australia will be keen to retain their second place in the world rankings on the tour to maintain the most favourable draw possible in the pool allocation for 2015 World Cup, which takes place in December.

The Wallabies play France in Paris on November 10, England a week later at Twickenham, Italy in Florence on November 24 before rounding out the tour against Wales in Cardiff on December 1.

Squad:

Forwards - Benn Robinson, James Slipper, Sekope Kepu, Ben Alexander, Paddy Ryan, Tatafu Polota-Nau, Stephen Moore, James Hanson, Nathan Sharpe, Sitaleki Timani, Kane Douglas, Rob Simmons, Dave Dennis, David Pocock, Michael Hooper, Liam Gill, Wycliff Palu, Radike Samo.

Backs - Nick Phipps, Brett Sheehan, Kurtley Beale, Berrick Barnes, Pat McCabe, Anthony Faingaa, Ben Tapuai, Adam Ashley-Cooper, Digby Ioane, Nick Cummins, Drew Mitchell, Mike Harris.

Read more on:    wallabies  |  david pocock  |  rugby
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