David Wilmer Pocock
- 829Wallaby Number
Despite being one of international rugby’s greatest ever on-the-ball back-rowers David Pocock was, as Winston Churchill once famously said, “a riddle, wrapped in a mystery inside an enigma”.
A master at the breakdown and one of the game’s finest defensive open side flankers, rugby was just one element of the man. Outside the game Pocock was well-known for his social activism, involvement in charity, views on conservation, and a passion for nature that comes from his “idyllic” early childhood in Africa. His heroes included Mahatma Gandhi, Nelson Mandela and radical Christian feminist Dorothy Day.
Pocock grew up in a farming area just outside of Gweru, Zimbabwe and began to play rugby as an eight year old at the Midlands Christian School. His family fled the country and moved to Brisbane after their farm was taken in the Zimbabwe government’s land reform program.
Pocock attended Anglican Church Grammar School where he “threw” himself into a variety of sports, notably rugby and water polo. He found “psychological comfort” in his rugby training. Pocock later stated that his goal of becoming a professional rugby player was a way of justifying an infatuation with his training. That training saw him become a star schoolboy as he packed on a stunning 17 kilos in twelve months ahead of his 1st XV year. Pocock then toured with Australian Schools to the U.K. alongside future fellow Wallabies Kurtley Beale and Quade Cooper.
Upon his return Pocock moved to Perth and joined the Western Force on an apprentice contract for their maiden Super Rugby 2006 season. Force coach John Mitchell showed his faith when he named Pocock to make his Super Rugby debut at 17, however that move was blocked by the IRB when they enforced the age limit of 18 for a first-class debutant. Eventually he made ran out for the Force in their last game of that season against the Sharks in Durban.
In 2008, Pocock captained the Australian U20s at the Junior World Championship and a year later made his Wallaby debut against New Zealand in Hong Kong. In 2010 he was awarded the prestigious John Eales Medal and, for a second consecutive season, was a nominee for the IRB Player of the Year.
He played in his first Rugby World Cup in 2011 and delivered what has been widely considered as the best individual performance at any tournament - the quarter-final against South Africa - as he near-single-handedly dragged the Wallabies into the semi-finals. In 2012, at age 23, he became the 79th Wallaby captain and led his side to a 3-0 home series victory against Wales.
It was then that serious injury struck. Pocock moved to the ACT Brumbies in 2013 but played just five games in his first two seasons due to two anterior cruciate ligament tears and subsequent knee reconstructions.
Pocock returned to the Wallabies and the top of the international pecking order in 2015 when he was arguably Australia’s key player during the Rugby Championship and Rugby World Cup campaigns. As a consequence he went within a whisker of winning the World Rugby Player of the Year award.
Following a gruelling 2016 season Pocock took a twelve month sabbatical from Australian rugby. He signed a two year deal with Japan’s Panasonic Wild Knights before a knee injury delayed his return in 2018.
Ahead of the 2019 Rugby World Cup, the unassuming Pocock - with little fanfare - confirmed he would retire after the tournament. “As an immigrant to Australia rugby has provided me with somewhere to make friends, to feel like I belong and obviously go on to get huge opportunities playing professional rugby at the Force, Brumbies and the Wallabies. I feel like it’s time to move on to other things and contribute in other areas.”
Represented Australian Schools against Japan High Schools, Samoan U18s and New Zealand Schools. He was then selected to tour the U.K. and Ireland where he started at No.7 in all four Tests against England U17s, England U18s, Wales U18s and Ireland U18s.
Selected in the Australian squad which won the third-annual IRB U19s Junior World Championship title in the United Arab Emirates.
He captained Australia to the inaugural IRB U20s Junior World Championships in Wales. Pocock won his first Test cap off the bench when he replaced George Smith in the 14-19, 4th Test loss to New Zealand in Hong Kong. He picked up a second cap as a replacement in the Spring Tour Test against Italy in Padova.
Pocock played in 13 of the season’s 14 Tests and by the end-of-the Spring Tour had established himself as Australia’s No.1 open side flanker. In the 2nd Test win over Italy in Melbourne he won his first cap in a run-on XV when selected at No.7, a move that saw George Smith captain the side from No.8. Pocock scored his first Test try in the year’s final international, the 33-12 win over Wales at Cardiff.
Pocock started at openside flanker in all 15 Tests of 2010. His dominant season was crowned when he won the prestigious John Eales Medal.
Pocock played 10 Tests and won selection to his first Rugby World Cup. His importance to the Wallabies’ title tilt was highlighted by two events. Firstly he was a late withdrawal for the crucial pool match against Ireland due to "soreness associated with a back strain". Ireland won 15-6. Secondly, in the quarter-final he delivered one of the greatest individual performances in the history of the tournament as Australia defeated South Africa 11-9.
Pocock became the 79th Wallaby to captain his country when selected to lead the side in the one-off test against Scotland, the three Test home series against Wales and the Rugby Championship. Unfortunately his season was cut short when forced to undergo surgery after he damaged the articular cartilage in his right knee in the 19-27, 1st Test loss to New Zealand in Sydney. He returned for the final international of the year, the 14-12 victory over Wales in Cardiff.
Pocock missed the entire international season after he underwent surgery to repair the anterior cruciate ligament of his left knee, damaged in the Brumbies’ round 4 Super Rugby match against the Waratahs.
Pocock was ruled out for the Wallabies Test season after he re-ruptured his anterior cruciate ligament in the Brumbies’ win over the Western Force in Perth.
Rehabilitated from injury Pocock returned with a vengeance in 2015. He won his 50th Test cap, oddly off the bench, in the 2nd Test loss to New Zealand in Auckland. In total Pocock won nine Test caps in 2015 and starred as a No.8 at the Rugby World Cup alongside Wallaby open side flanker Michael Hooper.
He collected 11 caps throughout the 2016 season, six of which came as the run-on XV No.8. Pocock missed each of the remaining four Wallaby Tests due to injury – two due to a fractured eye socket suffered against England in Brisbane and two after he broke his left hand against Argentina in Perth.
The combination of a well-publicised sabbatical to Japan and a break to focus on his study meant that Pocock was unavailable for Wallaby selection.
Pocock started 11 Tests, eight at No.8, two at blindside flanker and one at open side flanker - just his third in the No.7 jersey since Wales in Cardiff, 2012. Pocock missed the first Test against South Africa in Brisbane after he failed to recover from a dangerous neck roll by All Black prop Owen Franks during the 12-40 loss in Auckland. Ongoing neck-related issues forced him to miss the year’s final Test against England at Twickenham.
A persistent calf injury grounded Pocock from the early rounds of the Super Rugby through the entire Rugby Championship before he returned to captain the Wallabies, against Samoa, in the side’s final hitout before the World Cup. At the tournament Pocock played in all five fixtures, four - Fiji, Wales, Georgia and England - in the run-on XV and as a reserve against Uruguay.