Home Entertainment Zimbabwe-born Pocock’s sabbatical presents great opportunity for youngsters

Zimbabwe-born Pocock’s sabbatical presents great opportunity for youngsters

by reporter263
David Pocock and Christian Lealiifano of the Wallabies walk out of the water at Shelly Beach during a 2015 Australian Wallabies recovery session on the Sunshine Coast. (Photo by Cameron Spencer/Getty Images)

David Pocock will be undoubtedly missed in the Brumbies and Wallabies squads for 2017, but his absence will present the opportunity of a lifetime for future Wallabies to step up.

Pocock was Australia’s best player in 2015 both on and off the field, representing the Wallabies at the Rugby World Cup, leading the Brumbies to a semi-final and also taking time off to travel back to his birth nation Zimbabwe to lend a helping hand.

Filling Pocock’s void in 2017 will be no easy task, but there is no doubting the long list of potential Wallabies champing at the bit to get a chance and step into a gold jersey.

Liam Gill will be kicking himself after confirming that he will be heading to France at the end of 2016. Gill has 15 Wallabies Caps rising into the gold jersey in 2012 and finding himself filling Pocock’s shoes while he was recovering from his knee injury.

Another former Wallaby Dave Dennis has forgone his chances at a return to the gold jersey after signing a three-year contract with English club Exeter Chiefs. Dennis has 18 caps for the Wallabies.

Michael Hooper will no doubt secure the number 7 jersey for the Wallabies as he did for the World Cup with Pocock shifting to 8.

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21-year-old Sean McMahon was named in the Wallabies end of year tour squad in 2014 under the new coach of Michael Cheika. He made his first appearance against the Barbarians on 1 November, and secured his first cap a week later against Wales in Cardiff.

McMahon was involved in the 2015 Rugby World Cup, starting at 7 against Wales and Uruguay (scoring two tries), and on the bench in the quarter-final against Scotland. McMahon is sure to proceed Scott Fardy cementing the Wallabies 6 jersey.

I have identified three young players that show great potential inside the current Brumbies squad below.

Jarrad Butler has racked up 51 Super Rugby caps at the age of 24 and is a regular on the Brumbies reserve list behind Pocock and Scott Fardy at break-away. Brumbies head coach Stephen Larkham tagged Butler as a future Wallaby and is constantly impressed by his impact off the bench. His pilfering abilities fill the void of Pocock and Fardy when they are taken off the paddock.

Ita Vaea is the Brumbies starting number 8, and has also been given the future Wallaby tag by his coach. Vaea is synonymous for his bullocking runs, merciless defence and his ability to pilfer making the current Brumbies back-row a dominating force at the breakdown.

Vaea has struggled in the past with life-threatening blood clots on his heart, which delayed his progression to starting number 8 for the Brumbies and a place in the Wallabies extended squad.

Following his best ever season in 2015, Vaea is a hot tip for a gold jersey.

Michael Wells joined the Brumbies after an 18-month stint in the Australian Sevens squad and an eye-catching performance for the North Harbour Rays in the NRC. The 22-year-old flanker/ number 8 has an exciting future with many tipping him to be the next Pocock.

Outside of the Brumbies squad, there are a few young back-rowers who will put their hand up for Wallaby selection in 2017.

Colby Fainga’a moved from the Brumbies to the Rebels in 2014 after not getting enough game time due to the talent ahead of him. He has since played in all but one game for the Rebels. Fainga’a is capable of playing all three of the back-row positions.

Jordy Reid is a fan favourite at the Rebels with his George Smith-like dreadlocks. He is known for his fierce tackling capabilities and is a powerful runner of the ball.

Jed Holloway is a strong ball-carrying lock with the ability to play at blindside, and is looking to make his mark in the Waratahs starting line-up in 2016. At 23, Holloway has secured six Caps for the Waratahs and showed his true potential in the NRC as captain for the Greater Sydney Rams.

Michael Gunn represented the Australian Schoolboys and was snatched up by the Queensland Reds. The 19-year-old is yet to make his Super Rugby debut, but many coaches are claiming he is a future Wallabies prospect.

Perhaps 2017 is too close for Gunn to be selected in the Wallabies squad, but with Gill leaving a position available at 7 at the Reds, he has a great chance at catapulting himself through the ranks before the June Test window.-Theroar

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