Wallabies champion David Pocock admits he has no rugby plans beyond this year. Picture: Flavio Brancaleone
Wallabies champion David Pocock admits he has no rugby plans beyond this year. Picture: Flavio Brancaleone

Pocock’s major admission about his playing future

Quick, strong, unstoppable at the breakdown; his domain.

But those ruck contests have not been kind to David Pocock, and when contemplating if he will be forced to retire from rugby after the World Cup, the flanker is cautious, hesitant, not yet willing to poke his head fully into the speculative frenzy for fear of what he may grasp.

But even with a signed contract to play for Japanese club Panasonic in hand for after the World Cup, Pocock confesses retirement is a possibility by November.

"Every rugby player has to think about it, life after rugby and their long-term health," Pocock says after pausing for thought.

"The reality is it's a game that does take a toll on your body, and we all know that as players.

"So yeah, it's something to think about.

"I haven't thought a huge amount beyond the end of this year.

"I've signed [with Panasonic] for the post-World Cup season, I signed that a few years ago, and then after that, there's no real plans.

"We'll just have to wait and see. I've always tried to get the most out of what's in front me, and if you look at this year, it's a massive year for Australian rugby, there's plenty to do at the Brumbies, and obviously after that there's the World Cup.

"There's plenty of time to sort out what happens after that."

It's a despairing thought for many who have marvelled at Pocock's pilfering prowess - who watched him on those days he dominated Richie McCaw, Schalk Burger and Sam Warburton - that the end is in sight.

This is after all, Australia's best rugby player, the reigning John Eales medallist who'll wield more influence on the Wallabies' results at the World Cup than any other.

Pocock is only 30.

Welsh and British & Irish Lions captain Warburton was forced to retire last year at just 29, due to nerve damage in his neck.

For a long time, teams were resigned to frustration that Pocock would pounce at breakdowns, use his immovable legs to pivot and wrench the ball from hapless tackled opponents.

Then they began flying into him, using shoulders, hips and elbows on his prone head to dislodge Pocock from their pill. Still, the Zimbabwean-born lion would not loosen grip on his prey.

But the impact from his head into his neck and spine was brutal.

And then a more sinister trend started emerging; they began targeting Pocock with the despicable neck-roll, where rivals would grab his head and twist it around as a way of forcing the flanker off his feet and therefore off the ball.

 

David Pocock doing what he does best, pilfering the ball at the breakdown. Picture: Getty Images
David Pocock doing what he does best, pilfering the ball at the breakdown. Picture: Getty Images

 

By the end of last year Pocock's neck was in such a dire state, he was pulled out of the final Test against England, and cancelled his annual summer trip to Zimbabwe to do rehabilitation through December and January.

"The neck's feeling good," Pocock says now.

"I've done quite a lot of strength work on it, stuff with [Rugby Australia's head of athletic performance] Dean Benton, [Brumbies director of athletic performance] Ben Serpell, and then Steve Babic, who has been doing some grappling and wrestling stuff with us in Canberra, he works with the Raiders as well.

 

David Pocock in pain after being the victim of a neck roll in the second Bledisloe Cup Test against the All Blacks in Auckland last year. Picture: AAP
David Pocock in pain after being the victim of a neck roll in the second Bledisloe Cup Test against the All Blacks in Auckland last year. Picture: AAP

"So just having a different perspective, some different strength exercises as well, it's feeling a lot better. I put a fair bit of work into that over the Christmas-New Year period and I've continued that through the start of the year and I'm continuing that."

His uncompromising play has not only battered his neck, however.

Pocock, who took a year's sabbatical from rugby in 2017 to do conservation work in Zimbabwe and give his body a break from the rigours of the arena, has so far this season suffered a concussion in round one of Super Rugby, and a calf injury last week that has ruled him out of Friday's crucial match against the Waratahs in Canberra.

From the stands, Pocock hopes to see the Brumbies - with three losses and a 54-17 win against the Chiefs so far - entertain the home crowd.

 

David Pocock running the water for the Brumbies in Super Rugby round one in February. Picture: AAP
David Pocock running the water for the Brumbies in Super Rugby round one in February. Picture: AAP

 

"We love playing at Canberra Stadium and we want to be playing a style of rugby that Canberrans want to come and watch, and people from the surrounds who travel long distances to watch, we get great support from people in the country," he said.

"The season is here and it's time to put together performances like that Chiefs performance that people are happy with."

As for his own future, the decision will be made not for the happiness of others, but Pocock's own welfare, considerations for his life beyond the game and the family he'll support.

If this season is goodbye, Pocock will leave as a giant of the game forced to preserve his forever domains; his mind and body.

News Corp Australia


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