GREG GROWDEN August 21, 2012
Wallabies skipper David Pocock takes on the All Blacks during teh first Bledisloe Cup game in Sydney. Photo: Simon Alekna
The Wallabies have discovered their leadership group is jinxed, with Will Genia the only man left standing after captain David Pocock yesterday discovered he may have played his last match for the season.
Pocock will today undergo key-hole surgery on his right knee, and the Wallabies are already preparing to be without their world class openside flanker for at least the rest of the Rugby Championship.
Pocock, who suffered cartilage damage in the Sydney Bledisloe Cup loss, will not know until after surgery if even the end-of-season Wallabies tour of Europe remains an option.
At the start of the season the Wallabies appointed a leadership group comprised of James Horwill, David Pocock, Genia, Pat McCabe and James O'Connor. Horwill, McCabe, O'Connor and now Pocock are all sidelined through injury, and the Test scrumhalf, who will take over the Wallabies captaincy duties against the All Blacks in Auckland on Saturday night, is the only one left.
But Genia does not believe it will be lonely at the top when he leads the team to New Zealand on Thursday night in a bid to keep the Bledisloe Cup series alive.
Genia yesterday stressed he would be surrounded by experienced performers who wouldn't be intimidated by the All Blacks at fortress Eden Park, where the Wallabies haven't won since 1986.
''We are a very resilient group, and know we were very inaccurate in a lot of things we did during last weekend's Test, but the most disappointing thing was that we didn't start the way we wanted to,'' Genia said.
''We're going to be hard on ourselves this week, and not look for soft options. We will work on getting the mind-set right going into this game.''
Wallabies coach Robbie Deans, who gave Genia the captaincy reins against the United States in last year's World Cup, said he was the type of pugnacious leader required in what will be Australia's most important international of the season.
''Will responds to every responsibility and he doesn't back off from any challenge,'' Deans said. ''He's always been a big source of ignition in our group, and our game. And he now will have a greater presence off the field as well.''
Genia also provided some hope that the stagnant Wallabies attack, which has seen only six tries scored in Australia's five tests so far this season, would be more proactive in New Zealand. He felt either Michael Hooper or Liam Gill would adequately cover Pocock's absence.
''David is a massive loss, and his impact is going to be missed because he is a world-class player,' Genia said. ''But it opens the door for Michael Hooper and Liam Gill, and it's a chance for both to see what they're made of. Most importantly we need to want the ball more. We can look to be a bit more attacking with ball in hand as a back line.''
Pocock said he hurt his knee around the 30-minute mark of the Sydney Test.
''I skirted around a ruck, stepped off it, felt a little bit of a pinch, and it felt pretty sore from there on in,'' he said. ''I decided to stay on, because I was pretty keen to do everything I could to stay in the game, and finish it off.''
He will act as mentor for Hooper and Gill. ''I will give them as much or as little advice as they want,'' he said.
The Wallabies' back-row stocks have been further diminished with Test No.8 Ben McCalman sidelined for at least three months with a fractured forearm.
Bledisloe Cup: New Zealand v Australia, at Eden Park, 5.35pm. TV time: Live on WIN and Fox Sports 3