Even in defeat, the world salutes heroic Pocock after sensational World Cup show

> Robson Sharuko

Harare – THE rugby gods did not provide David Pocock with the fairy-tale ending that his blockbuster performance at the 2015 Rugby World Cup in England certainly merited but, even in defeat, the Zimbabwe-born Australian back row star was showered with praise for his phenomenal show.

Pocock’s gritty Wallabies fell 17-34 to the ruthless machine that is the All Blacks, viewed by some as the greatest sports team ever, after the New Zealanders made history by becoming the first side to defend the Rugby World Cup title at London’s Twickenham last Saturday.

The purity of the All Blacks’ performance in the final, described by one journalist as resembling watching Barcelona at their very best, choked life out of the brave Wallabies who gave their all, in probably the best Rugby World Cup final in history, as the curtain came down on what is being hailed as the greatest Rugby World Cup tournaments ever.

“Rugby’s greatest team were anointed at the end of the best World Cup. And the chief hero among many was Dan Carter, probably the finest player to have played this sometimes perplexing, often glorious game,” Paul Hayward, the Chief Sports Writer at the Daily Telegraph, noted.

“Where else in life can you find symmetry like that?

“A beautiful calm descended on Twickenham as New Zealand pulled away from Australia once and then again after a brief Wallaby flurry threatened to spoil the retirement parties of a swarm of All Black legends.”

Pocock scored a try, to spark a Wallaby fightback that drew them within just a few points of the All Blacks in a bruising but beautiful final, after the New Zealanders were one man down, after Ben Smith was shown a yellow card, but once the favourites had got all their numbers on the pitch, they found another gear to sprint to victory.

Dan Carter, one of the greatest players the game has ever seen, was the star of the final, and was duly named 2015 Rugby World Player of the Year, the third time that the All Blacks legend has won the award, as he waved goodbye to international rugby in style.

Carter will now join the Moneybags of French club rugby, becoming the best paid player in the game, after scoring 19 points in the final, including a drop goal that eased the pressure when the Aussies were storming back, and a penalty that was dragged home from the halfway mark.

Pocock was one of the players that Carter beat for the award handed to the best player in the world and the Zimbabwe-born star, who played a starring role at the 2015 Rugby World Cup, and there are some pundits who believe that he was, indeed, the best player in England.

He was named in the Fox Sports Dream Team for leading the tournament with 17 turnovers “and was the most influential player in the Wallabies team with star performances against England, Wales and Argentina.”

Sir Clive Woodward, who coached England to World Cup glory in Australia, said Pocock was the best player at the 2015 Rugby World Cup.

“I will subdivide this into two categories. In pure rugby terms, importance to his team and impact on matches it was Australia’s No 8 David Pocock who, until the final when New Zealand did a fantastic collective job at the breakdown, dominated that area,” he said.

“The personality of the tournament, though, was Richie McCaw, who seems to make history every time he takes the field. His play, as it always is, was incredible, but his captaincy in leading New Zealand throughout the tournament was exceptional.”

The Daily Mail reporter, Joe Ridge, also named Pocock as his player of the tournament, describing the Wallaby star as a superhuman.

“Superhuman. You’d back him to beat any player, past or present, at any breakdown and in a new role of No 8 under Michael Cheika he has developed into one of the most potent ball-carrying forwards in world rugby,” he wrote.

His colleague on the Daily Mail, Nik Simon, also named Pocock as the standout player at the 2015 global rugby showcase.

“David Pocock has been single-handedly changing the way the game is played. The turnover king has opened Northern Hemisphere eyes to the growing importance of the breakdown. England must take note,” he said while his stableman, Jonathan McEvoy, said it was sensible that the prize should go to the Zimbabwe-born star.

“Any sensible list might include Australia’s David Pocock, but I am taking the romantic’s option, Dan Carter winning the World Cup final by scoring 19 points. A fitting farewell from a colossus.”

And even in Wales, the team that emerged as the best of those in the Northern Hemisphere, in a tournament dominated by the Southerners who provided four of the semi-finalists in New Zealand, Australia, South Africa and Argentina, Pocock’s performance was noted and hailed.

“Sometimes World Cups, whatever the sport may be, become synonymous with the heroics of one individual,” Delme Parfitt wrote on WalesOnline ahead of the final at Twickenham.

“The sight of Diego Maradona at Twickenham watching Argentina play their semi-final against Australia – and the ITV cameras cut to him enough times – would have sent many a mind racing back to Mexico 1986, a tournament the great man won virtually single-handedly for the South American nation.

“So is there anyone in line to wear that kind of mantle come the denouement of Rugby World Cup 2015?

“What then of David Pocock and Australia, who have a number in their ranks deserving of special recognition, not least veteran utility back Adam Ashley-Cooper who claimed a try hat-trick at the weekend.

“Pocock HAS been the outstanding player on show for Australia – or any other nation for that matter.

“If the Wallabies lift the Webb Ellis Trophy on Saturday it will go down as Pocock’s World Cup, as unwilling as a player of such humility will be to accept such a tag.

“Critically, the vast majority of Pocock’s steals have been at vital moments, in dangerous areas of the pitch and at times when his side has truly needed them.

“Pocock offers bravery, strength, game-intelligence and a complete mastery of what is required to ensure his contribution is the maximum it can possibly be.

“He also plays the game in the right spirit, Pocock is a hard man in the truest sense in that he’s prepared to take on all-comers in a rugby arm-wrestle without resorting to cheap shots.

“All this from a guy who missed the best part two years because of a double knee construction. If Australia win, it’s Pocock’s World Cup.”

Of course, the Aussies didn’t won the World Cup but that doesn’t mean Pocock’s star didn’t shine brightest.

November 2015
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