Australia’s No.1 ball thief David Pocock is back for the Brumbies after a long stint on the sidelines for Saturday’s season opener against Queensland.
Queensland authorities have identified the primary suspect as 1.84cm tall, 104kg, blondish hair, blue eyes, with a brazen talent to steal rugby balls in broad sight.
“David Pocock is a hard guy to shift when he gets over the ball,” says Queensland Reds captain James Horwill.
Australia’s best ball thief is back for the Brumbies after a long stint on the sidelines.
And Queensland flanker Liam Gill, as well as his Reds teammates, have a huge job on their hands to limit the damage in the Super Rugby season opener in Canberra on Saturday night.
“Gilly is an excellent exponent of the breakdown, David is obviously a world-class player at the breakdown,” Horwill says.
“We’ve got to make sure we don’t allow him that time and space over the ball.”
While Pocock’s return from a serious knee injury after 11 months will take centre stage, numerous other side plots will unfold around the park.
Reds flyhalf Quade Cooper, who has recovered from last week’s neck scare, will be out to one-up his main contender for the Wallabies No.10 jersey Matt Toomua.
“Quade’s a guy that always has a natural ability as that freakish talent to do things that other people can’t,” says Horwill.
But Toomua, a noted rib rattling defender, has his own plans to stop Cooper and halfback Will Genia from creating opportunities out wide for their elusive backline, which includes livewire fullback Aidan Toua.
Assisting Toomua in defence in the busy No.12 channel will be Wallabies hard man Pat McCabe, back from his second broken neck to replace a recovering Christian Lealiifano (ankle).
“Guys like Quade and Will, you can’t defend individually because you won’t get them,” Toomua said.
“You bring a few guys with you and you don’t just do it mindlessly.”
Both sides enter the season with new head coaches following the departures of former verbal sparring partners Ewen McKenzie and Jake White last year.
Expect both sides to have similar systems in place though, as Reds coach Richard Graham and Brumbies coaches Stephen Larkham and Laurie Fisher were the understudies.
Not only will both teams be out to kick off their respective coaches’ new tenures with a win, but to grab an instant lead on one of their main conference rivals.
The Reds’ failure to beat the Brumbies in both last year’s season opener in Canberra, and the 19-19 draw in Brisbane, eventually cost them a first place finish in the Australian conference.
“The higher you finish on the table, the better it is come finals time,” Horwill said.
“So these interstate rivalry games are massive for that.”