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By Lee Stace

WHO DOES Wallabies coach Robbie Deans think he is kidding?

In case you reckon this scribe – or hack, as I was referred to last week by someone who, despite taking disdain at what I wrote, proceeded to comment on my blog – has gone off his rocker, I am talking about the transplanted New Zealander’s comments that David Pocock is a better player than Richie McCaw.

It’s all a load of hogwash, because the fact is Pocock isn’t. His allround skillset has yet to fully develop.

Don’t get me wrong. Deans was right to praise Pocock for his breakdown work after the Wallabies’ victory over Wales last weekend. After all, the skipper’s ability to make a right nuisance of himself at the ruck was what stymied the tourists’ chances of building crucial momentum.

He’s right to say that that Zimbabwe-born fetcher’s low centre of gravity and muscular build makes him nigh impossible to shift when he has arched himself over an isolated ball carrier. He’s right to say that Pocock can manoeuvre himself into good positions, even when contending with heavy traffic at the tackled-ball area.

But so does McCaw. In fact, he has been doing it for 104 quality tests for the All Blacks since his Lansdowne Road coronation as the ‘breakdown king’ against Ireland in 2001.

The other thing that needs to be taken into consideration is that there is more to an openside’s game that just tackling and pilfering turnovers. Those are just two aspects of the position’s brief.

As well as being ever-present in support, modern-day No 7s have to also provide a physical edge when carrying the ball.

McCaw does the latter very well – and it is an area of his game that has grown as he has altered his approach to his work over the years. Pocock is not noted for his work with the ball tucked under the arm of his burly upper body.

Then there is consistency. No team has ever devised a strategy to limit the effectiveness of McCaw at the breakdown, instead resorting to claims that he cheats.

Although Pocock is beginning to have a similar influence there, he doesn’t bring it week-in, week-out like his New Zealand counterpart does on the international stage. The All Blacks successfully shut him down in the Rugby World Cup semifinals last year by running at him and forcing him to make a lot of tackles.

Of course, at 24 and with 41 tests on his résumé, there is every chance Pocock will inherit the title as the best openside in world rugby.

But right now there is only one and that is McCaw.

Posted Comments

REDS05
Pocock is over rated. I am a passionate Reds and Wallabies supporter and trust me he is way over rated and shouldn't even be captain. Let me ask you this when was the last time you saw Pocock link with the backs? He might win you the ball at the breakdown but the bloke can not pass so when he's running with the ball you can rest assure he'll take it ground. Deans would like Pocock to have McGaw aura namely get away with murder at the breakdown but he's no where near that great cheat McGaw. Go the Reds!
nathan whitney
deans actually says that pocock is the best ruck warrior he has seen. as far as best number 7 you reckon deans would say richie?
Irv
I agree with Greg-, chances are that Dean's quote was taken out of context
Nick Wilcox (Aus)
It's all very well to be banging on about Pocock and McCaw, and someone mentioned Jones - who was brilliant. But if Pocock's better than McCaw, and George Smith was better than Pocock (an uncontestable fact), that makes Smith the best ever. Smith had an all-round game. And it was Smith, not McCaw, who invented the wide-stanced pilfer at the breakdown.
Devuman
Surprise, surprise! A Kiwi hack asserting that a Kiwi player in his twilight years is better than a rising Aussie player. Ho-hum.
Lord
Written like a typical one-eyed Kiwi. Expand your vision, both McCaw and Pocock are great 7s, and both countries are lucky to have them.
Greg
I may be wrong here but does Robbie actually say Pocock is the best in the world or the best open side flanker he has ever coached? And if the later, is he referring to best TO COACH or best HE HAS COACHED? Would be interesting what comment of Robbies is actually being quoted here and if you have the right end of the stick...
Greg
I may be wrong here but does Robbie actually say Pocock is the best in the world or the best open side flanker he has ever coached? And if the later, is he referring to best TO COACH or best HE HAS COACHED? Would be interesting what comment of Robbies is actually being quoted here and if you have the right end of the stick...
stuart mcrae
Deans had an incredible coaching record with the Crusaders, ... he should be more thankful he had the world's best #7 to work with.
crankshaft 6
Your opinion is noted and as do most Southern hemisphere flankers both break every law in the book and so they should if allowed, it is the refs that make them look as good as you say not just them
baggs
humble opinion etc . . Pocock's good over the ball, McCaw adds ball-carrying and link work. But what you get from Richie, on-form or not, fully-fit or not, is leadership. Forget the Wales match, Pocock just didn't know what to do when it rained at Newcastle vs Scotland.
dodger
there really is no one who i believe comes close to Ritchie. deans is pulling his pud. Could pocock though be compared to josh kronfeld at the breakdown? pocock looks more like a bodybuilder and bodybuilders dont make great rugby players.
T
I agree its a little premature, but only just! Consider the battles that they have had Pocock vs McCaw. I say this because you said 'no team has ever devised a strategy to limit the effectiveness of McCaw at the breakdown.....' Pocock is the strategy - and has won the battle more times than he has lost. Both with the wallabies and the force.
Danny Lek
I absolutely agree with Lee Stace's comments on David Pocock. While David's good, he's still way off Ritchie McCaw's standard of performance. David's performance so far had been against Scotland and Wales, 2 teams, who are not near to or of the same calibre as the ABs and the Springboks. So it's pre-mature for Robbie Deans to judge.
Pocock is better now
Your right, Ritchie has been there done that, he no longer pilfers, he just lies all over the opposition ball!! The world cup final a classic example, an absolute joke what he got away with! Pocock is known for carrying the ball too, he is constantly used by the Wallabies to truck it up off the line-out and around the ruck! Ritchie was the best in the world, no doubt, but not anymore. The fact he was good in the past has no bearing on his current form!
bryce
Hi Lee Deans did not say he's the best of all time, he stated currently the best in the world... of which he is. Do yourself a favour and check Verusco and SportsData stats to see just how much better he is that Richie in pilfers, tackles made, tackles missed, try-assists, off-loads and almost every other stat there is. It's not rocket-science mate.
Tung Chek
What a load of rubbish. Everyone knows McCaw has been allowed to get away with blue murder every time he plays. Witness Craig Joubert RWC YouTube video. And poor old Vinny Munro hasn't been allowed to ref a game since he gave McCaw a yellow card in Perth last year. Tung Ng Chek Hong Kong
Riwai Grace
Robbie Deans is just doing what any good coach does, talk up his own players, you cant compare players from different eras, Richie has been amazing over the last 12 Years and changed his style of play over that period he is now a true leader of men like Buck used to be. Pocock will be the same in years to come the trick will be when playing the Force or Australia we have to change our tactics like they did in the Semi FInal last year so he can't be so effective. Right now Richie is King
Elwood
AHHH -- first I take a job with 'The Enemy' because I didn't get the one I actually wanted, but, unfortunately, it doesn't work out quite the way I had planned! Next, I struggle to replicate the success I had tasted with my home franchise, as I have a bunch of second string wannabees to work with! As I see failure beckoning me forth, what else can I do but turn on those I left behind -- hoping that the more I say it, the more it will become fact! Sorry Robbie -- no - one's listening anymore!
H.Gooch
Here here, well written. Richie has been there, done that , and plays a totally different game these days, & everyone is still trying to catch up. I actually think Dean's totally disrespect s Richie. Pity, he got his present job on the back of Richie & co.
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