(Reuters) – New Zealand expect Australia’s David Pocock to be “right in the thick of things” when the teams meet in Saturday’s Rugby Championship test in Perth, despite the loose forward not having played since March.
Pocock missed most of the Super Rugby season, as well as Australia’s first two tests of the Rugby Championship against South Africa and Argentina, with a calf injury, but was last week named in their squad for the match against the All Blacks.
The 31-year-old openside flanker tweeted on Monday that he had returned to training with the main squad and New Zealand flanker Sam Cane said he expected Pocock to go straight back into the Wallabies’ starting line-up.
“I would expect (Pocock) to come back and be right in the thick of things,” Cane said. “Your match fitness is not normally where you want it to be but because you have been in those situations before you can normally just push on through.
“A guy like David Pocock, his best and worst game is not a big margin between them.”
With the World Cup in Japan fast approaching, the Wallabies might be tempted to start Pocock on the bench or even hold back his return to action a little longer.
All Blacks assistant coach Ian Foster said his side were prepared to face Pocock but were also ready to adapt should he be kept in reserve.
“We’re guessing that (Pocock) will play,” Foster added. “You always prepare for that scenario. We’ve played against (Pocock and Wallabies skipper Michael Hooper) when they’ve played together a number of times.
“They’re quality footballers so we’re preparing for that. We know though that if he doesn’t make it there will be someone else there to do a job.”
(Reporting by Simon Jennings in Bengaluru; Editing by Peter Rutherford)