David Pocock of the Wallabies.
David Pocock of the Wallabies. DAN PELED

Pocock keen to keep building combination with Hooper

RUGBY: Wallabies star David Pocock said he would be happy to keep playing alongside Michael Hooper if coach Michael Cheika sticks with what has become known as the "Pooper back row” against South Africa in Brisbane on Saturday night.

Hooper is under pressure to keep his place on the flank with Cheika yet to decide on whether to keep the same combination or start the Waratahs man off the bench for the clash with the Springboks at Suncorp Stadium.

While Pocock would not discuss selection issues, with the team set to be named on Thursday, he did say Hooper was under-rated.

"I really enjoy playing alongside Hoops,” Pocock told reporters. "His work rate is huge. If you look at the metres he gets through and the ground he covers, it's pretty impressive.

"Selection issues, you've got to talk to the people making decisions.

"But as a player I'm really enjoying playing alongside him and we'll keep working hard on that combination and trying to make it better and improve it.”

Pocock and Hooper had been effective when first put together in the back row last year.

But in recent games the pair's impact at the breakdown has lessened, with Pocock saying that could be down to the improvement of opposition back rows rather than a drop in performance from the Wallabies stars.

"I'm not sure, I think most teams are still looking to have that on-the-ball presence and a lot of players across the field are starting to get a lot better at it,” Pocock said.

"A few props, hookers, some of the outside backs; against England they had a number of guys who were getting good turnovers against us.

"The All Blacks have pressured the ball with their second-rowers; Sam Cane's pretty handy in that area, too.

"So I think there's definitely a role for it, a lot of it depends on, I don't know, the amount of space the opposition team gives in that area.”

The Wallabies are looking to snap a six-game losing streak in Saturday's Rugby Championship match.

Cheika has options at No.8 other than Pocock, if he chooses to move openside flanker Hooper to the bench.

Sean McMahon could come in or Cheika could turn to the bigger, uncapped Lopeti Timani.

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