Australia back row forward David Pocock has dismissed claims of him ‘cheating’ at the breakdown were just standard accusations facing the game’s top openside flankers.
Pocock was acclaimed by Australia coach Robbie Deans for producing the best individual display of the World Cup as he inspired the Wallabies to a backs-to-the-wall 11-9 quarter-final win over South Africa last Sunday.
That set the stage for a compelling breakdown battle with New Zealand captain and warrior flanker Richie McCaw in Sunday’s semi-final at Eden Park.
The powerfully-built Pocock laid claim to being the best number seven in the game with 26 tackles and helping to steal nine turnovers as Australia fed off crumbs to edge out the defending champions in Wellington.
Disgruntled South African fans have vented their fury at Kiwi referee Bryce Lawrence for allowing the Wallabies, and chiefly Pocock, for getting away with a free-for-all at the breakdown last weekend.
Pocock faced the media Wednesday ahead of the big game with the All Blacks and defended his match-winning role against the Springboks, who dominated with 76 percent possession and spent a total of over 11 minutes in the Wallaby quarter.
“I have no idea. I really don’t know. I will leave that to you guys (the media) to talk about,” Pocock said.
“It’s fairly standard in a game these days that number sevens cop a bit of heat from the opposition and that’s for Richie McCaw as well.
“I think it’s fairly standard (cheating claims) for most number sevens and it’s been pretty funny this week in Twitter and seeing what the fans are saying, it’s been in good humour.”
Pocock, 23, said his job was to get to the rucks first and hustle for turnovers.
“You’ve got to try to get in as quick as you can and as an arriving player, if the ruck’s not formed, you’ve got all the rights and you continue to have those rights as long as you don’t put your hands on the ball,” he said.
“That’s the main focus and then listen to what the referee is saying.”
Former All Blacks openside flanker Josh Kronfeld rates Pocock above McCaw as the world’s premier number seven but the Wallaby fetcher would not enter into the debate.
“I don’t get involved in that kind of thing,” Pocock said. “It’s such a big game for the team and that’s what I am focusing on at the moment.
“The All Blacks offer a different set of threats, they use a bit more footwork and their work at the breakdown across the board is a bit better (than South Africa) and more contested, so we have to step up from last week in the breakdown again.
“In the past it’s been a big part of the winning teams as the way they’ve played they’ve dominated the breakdowns.”
Deans and Australia captain James Horwill have repeatedly stressed the importance of Pocock’s contribution to the side.
“He’s clearly a huge influence in any game he plays in and we’d clearer be poorer for his absence,” Deans said this week.
“The world is blessed with some very good snafflers at the moment and no doubt people will be looking forward to next week, to that end,” he said of Pocock’s looming duel with McCaw.
Horwill added: “Pocock is always influential whichever team he plays for, he’s a guy who makes a difference on the ground to the whole team.
“We love to have him around and on the field.”