Queensland coach Richard Graham has made the bold claim that Liam Gill could have pulled off Michael Hooper’s rise last year if given the same chance.
Simply earning the Queensland No.7 jersey for the Super Rugby season will be challenging enough, according to Liam Gill.
But Reds coach Richard Graham believed Gill had already shown he could have pulled off Wallabies openside flanker Michael Hooper’s meteoric rise to the 2013 John Eales Medal if given the same chance last year.
Gill admitted competition for back-row spots was heating up ahead of their pre-season opener against defending champions the Chiefs in Toowoomba on February 8.
However, Graham made the bold claim that Gill had become the best on-ball openside in the country – better than Brumbies comeback story David Pocock, whose serious knee injury opened the door for Hooper’s stellar rise.
Asked if Gill could have repeated Hooper’s amazing feats if given the nod in 2103, Graham said: “I have no doubt.
“Over the ball, he is the best in Australia – better than Pocock.
“His lineout ability is a real strength.
“And some of the things that you saw in his skill set last year left people astounded.”
Pocock missed almost the entire 2013 Super Rugby season after tearing his anterior cruciate ligament in March.
He will return in the Brumbies’ pre-season trial against the Highlanders in Queenstown on Friday.
Gill said Pocock’s comeback ensured the more things changed, the more they had stayed the same in the fight for the Wallabies’ No.7 jersey.
“It’s the exact same scenario as it was 12 months ago – everyone was fit and healthy and then George Smith came in,” Gill said.
“There’s always tough competition for a No.7 jersey.
“We started in the same manner last year so, hopefully, I will go head to head with both David and Michael first up.”
Gill won’t have to wait long to test his skills – the Reds play Pocock’s Brumbies (February 22) and Hooper’s NSW Waratahs (March 1) in Super Rugby’s opening two rounds.
Hooper played all but one of the Wallabies’ 15 Tests last year while Gill made seven appearances off the bench, filling all back-row positions.
Gill has played blindside flanker as a replacement during his 15-Test career but made it clear he wanted to go head to head with the likes of Pocock and Hooper for the Wallabies’ No.7 spot.
“If my game suits six, I will play six but I think I am an out and out seven,” Gill said.
“I am confident of my ability and the way I can develop and keep getting better.”