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Pocock power earns Cheika praise

2015-09-24 10:03
David Pocock (Gallo Images)

Cardiff - Australian coach Michael Cheika piled praise on two-try hero David Pocock for setting up the Wallabies' scrappy opening win over Fiji at the World Cup.

But even Pocock's man-of-the-match effort could not secure a Pool A bonus point - an early hitch which could hurt Australia's campaign later on in a group also featuring tournament hosts England and Wales.

Pocock's pairing with Michael Hooper paid off in the hard-fought 28-13 win over Fiji at Cardiff's Millennium Stadium and between them the two back-row forwards made 38 tackles.

"David worked hard and also was in the contest a fair bit, was in the tackle contest a lot," said Cheika.

"Obviously it's a strength of his, so we want to put him there or thereabouts so he can have more of a roving mission in defence.

"And I think he also did his business well in attack too, and his technical stuff too. He worked very, very hard, himself and Hooper were good in their work-rate off the ball."

Pocock was driven over twice from the Wallabies' effective rolling maul for two first-half tries.

Cheika said the rolling maul, deployed off attacking lineouts, had been outstanding. It is a tactic that Pocock has used to devastating effect for his Brumbies club side this year.

"Obviously, it's been an excellent weapon for the Brumbies this season and they've got some very skilful players in that area and there's a few of them in the pack and they've been leading our team in building a better maul on both sides of the ball, not just in attack," the coach said.

England and Wales both secured much vaunted bonus points for scoring four tries in their first games.

Fiji put on so much pressure in the second half that Australia did not manage to do likewise. Cheika expressed no outward concern, however.

"We haven't thought about the bonus point," he said.

For veteran Australian playmaker Matt Giteau, the formula that the two-time World Cup winners must follow is simple: win your pool games and you advance to the quarter-finals, bonus points or not.

Giteau also played down his team's inability to bag a bonus point in what is the toughest of the four pools.

"We saw that Fiji are a solid, very strong team who play with a lot of speed," said Giteau.

"It was our first game and it was tough. As for the bonus point, it's not a problem. If we win all our matches, we'll finish first."

Giteau was one of the overseas-based players allowed into the squad following a change of heart by the Australian Rugby Union that saw them relax their eligibility rules for international selection.

Cheika said he was glad of the new policy.

"With the rule changes we've been able to select four players, Matt and Drew (Mitchell), and ... Dean Mumm and Kane Douglas," the coach said, with the latter two qualifying under another rule allowing players to come back and sign on in Australia for two years.

"What it's done is it's given us a little bit of extra depth, two of those players started today and one came off the bench. It makes competition for places stronger and I think it's good for Australians to be watching their best players playing rugby."

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