Auckland - Wallaby star breakdown pilferer David Pocock said Thursday he was flattered to be rated above All Blacks skipper Richie McCaw as the form number seven heading into this week's World Cup.
The bold assessment comes from no less than All Black great open-side flanker of the 1990s Josh Kronfeld, whose comments have raised some eyebrows in rugby-obsessed New Zealand.
"A good number seven can make or break a team," Kronfeld was quoted as saying Wednesday in a British newspaper.
"Look at David Pocock. He is the form number seven of the world at the moment, a master."
Pocock has been earning rave reviews for his on-the-ball scavenging in the rucks and looms as one of the Wallabies' major weapons over the next six weeks at the World Cup.
The 23-year-old Zimbabwean-born Pocock is one of the youngsters in Robbie Deans's revamped team since taking over as Wallaby coach in 2008 and has made 34 international appearances.
The powerfully-built Western Force flanker was honoured to be rated so high by one of his schoolboy sporting heroes.
"That's great coming from a guy like Josh Kronfeld. He was a legend and I remember watching him play when I was in primary school with his headgear," Pocock told reporters ahead of Australia's opening match against Italy on Sunday.
"That's something coming from someone like him but you just have to focus on your game and even Richie, not at his best, is pretty good.
"Kronfeld was a legend of the game, but I think I've got a way to go yet."
Kronfeld played 54 times for the All Blacks and played at the 1995 and 1999 World Cups.
"I watched so much rugby growing up that Kronfeld really stood out with his headgear," Pocock said.
"He was one of those loosies (openside flanker) who would follow the wingers whether it was Jonah Lomu or whoever and when they got tackled near the line they pop it up to him and he would score the try."
Such is Pocock's importance to the Wallabies' chances that Deans did not include a back-up specialist number seven among his 30-man World Cup squad.
Pocock, rated as a future Wallaby captain, was one of two Australians nominated for last year's IRB Player of the Year award.
McCaw won the honour but the warrior All Black team leader has come under increasing pressure from Pocock as the game’s premier breakaway.
Pocock fought his way into the national team supplanting George Smith and Phil Waugh to establish himself as Australia’s premier openside fetcher.
He looms as an integral member of the Wallabies' campaign at the World Cup and is relishing the opening game against Italy and their formidable forward pack.
"The Italians build pressure really well and they take the points on offer and build that lead on the scoreboard and make teams chase them," Pocock said.
"They proved against France in this year's Six Nations that they can close out a big game like that.
"So they are definitely one of the teams who have improved the most in the four years leading to this World Cup and we're in for a good game."