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David Pocock's vision for Zimbabwe's World Cup return

by Wayne Smith
08 Oct 2019 at 13:45hrs | Views
He can't see himself ever contributing as a coach but David Pocock admits it would make him happy if Zimbabwean rugby was able to rise from the ashes and compete again in a World Cup.

It takes some doing, discussing Zimbabwe's plight without making mention of Robert Mugabe, the man who did his country â€" and Pocock's own family â€" so much harm. But ever the diplomat he managed to steer a path between the man and his actions and what can be done to build the country up again.

Pocock was born in Zimbabwe in 1988, the year after Mugabe, who had been prime minister of the country for seven years, took on the title of president.

For a time things were bearable until Mugabe unleashed his fast-track land reforms and set his "war veterans" to brutally beat and murder targeted farmers between 2000 and 2002.

Finally, in 2002, the Pocock family fled to Australia and to Brisbane where the then 14-year-old began the seemingly remorseless climb into the Wallabies. But even now, with 81 Tests behind him, he feels the call of his native country.

Asked if he would ever return to coach the national side, Pocock suppressed a wry smile.

"I don't really fancy myself as a coach, to be honest," he said.

"But I would love to see Zimbabwe in a World Cup. They've got so much talent at a schoolboy level and it would make me so happy to see them running onto the world stage again."

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Zimbabwe have contested two World Cups, the original tournament in New Zealand and Australia in 1987 and the subsequent one in Britain in 1991, though they are yet to win a match.

Still, Pocock keeps in touch with the Zimbabwean backs coach and plans for the day when the Zimbabwean national team, the Sables, rises again on the international arena.

"I've done very little to be honest. I have done a couple of coaching clinics and met with some people involved with ZimRugby. I stay in touch with the backs coach at the moment but with playing for Australia and a few other projects I'm involved in, it hasn't given me a lot of time to be involved," he said.

"I think there is a network of Zimbabweans around the world who have played for other countries who could potentially be contributing back there in terms of some coaching staff, IP, really just providing some support. But they are doing a great job in the circumstances of Zimbabwean rugby over the last couple of decades."

It is a fantasy common to the Zimbabwean diaspora, imaging what a stellar backrow Zimbabwe could possibly field: Pocock at openside flanker along with halfback Nic White's former Exeter Chiefs teammates Don Armand and Dave Ewers, with, say, Leicester's Mike Williams or David Denton of Worcester as back-ups.

At best, Pocock's Wallabies career has four more matches still to go, though at the moment only two are certain, Friday's meeting with Georgia in Shizuoka and then a World Cup quarter-final against either England or France.

After that he will head to Japan to finish his rugby career. Or will he? There are moves afoot to allow players who have been capped by one country but who are no longer required to return to play for the land of their birth.

"It's worth talking about. It gets complicated. That is a discussion for the players' unions and World Rugby to be having," he said.

In the meantime, he takes almost a paternal pride in seeing how far the so-called minnows of the World Cup have progressed â€" and yet how patronisingly they are still regarded as mere cannon fodder for the major rugby nations.

"As a player I sometimes find it a bit disrespectful with people expecting massive margins at the World Cup," he said.

"I think some of the Tier Two nations have put a huge amount of work in over the last four years and we have seen a massive improvement by Japan, and Namibia against New Zealand in the first half really held their own."

Georgia, too, have earned respect, holding Wales to 14-14 in the second half. And, while they beat Uruguay they struck Semi Radradra and the Fijians in a mean mood and were trounced 45-10.

Now they will pit their world-class scrum and physicality against the Australians.

"We have to put in a good performance, give them the respect they deserve, prepare well and see what happens," Pocock said.

Source - theaustralian.com.au

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