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Pocock stars in winning Wallabies return over Irish

David Pocock (C) scored the match-clinching try in Australia's 18-9 win over Ireland
AFP

Brisbane (Australia) (AFP) – Flanker David Pocock said Sunday he never doubted he would be off the pace in his return to international rugby after his dominant performance in the Wallabies’ win over Ireland in Brisbane.

Pocock, playing in his first Test in 18 months, scored the match-clinching try in Australia’s 18-9 win to end the Six Nations champions’ unbeaten 12-Test run on Saturday.

The Wallabies flanker seamlessly picked up where he left off in the wake of his 12-month sabbatical spent mainly in the country of his birth Zimbabwe.

Pocock, 30, was a part of a dynamic back-row performance with skipper Michael Hooper and Caleb Timu that laid the platform for the Wallabies’ 11th consecutive home Test win over the Irish stretching back to 1979.

He never doubted his ability to bounce back to his best in the Test arena, despite spending so long away from the Wallabies.

“It’s one of those things you don’t think too much about,” Pocock told reporters.

“You just back yourself and know that if you are doing all your prep, the physical and mental stuff, you’ll get back to your best.

“As a rugby player you always want to be chasing that improvement and pushing the boundaries of what you’re capable of as a player.

“Most guys certainly don’t feel they’re at their best — there’s always that little bit more you’re trying to get out of yourself.”

Pocock was granted temporary leave from Wallabies and Super Rugby duties last year to pursue interests outside of rugby, only returning for the ACT Brumbies this season.

He spent much of his time in Africa focusing on animal conservation, agriculture and embracing his Zimbabwean roots.

“There was a fair bit going on over there; it was certainly a break but you thought about it (rugby) from time to time,” he said.

“You think about what an incredible opportunity it is to represent Australia; as an immigrant I’m so grateful of the opportunities I’ve had.

“To pull on the green and gold… get out there, be at your best and know you’re also representing so many people in Zimbabwe that have been part of the journey.”

Pocock was at the forefront on the physical battle with the Irish but he is expecting the world’s No.2 team to hit back in the second Test in Melbourne on Saturday.

“Test matches are physical and the games are often won and lost there,” he said.

“Ireland are a big side and I thought they were also very physical.

“I’m sure game two is going to be the same.”

Inside-centre Kurtley Beale said another week of training would help the Wallabies improve their tactical kicking to further exploit what they see as a way through Ireland’s disciplined defence.

“The Irish are one the best defensive teams in the world, so for us to break that and exit well after points was crucial,” Beale said Sunday.

“The intention of those kicks last night was good.

“The Irish will come back hungrier and keen, we’ll be aware of that, there’s a lot of hard work to go, the series isn’t over yet.”

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