Wallabies coach Michael Cheika has defended David Pocock.
Wallabies coach Michael Cheika has defended David Pocock.

Cheika blasts Irishman for Pocock ‘cancer’ call

WALLABIES coach Michael Cheika has slammed former Ireland international Neil Francis for his poor taste in writing that  breakdown king David Pocock is a "cancer on the game."

Writing for the Irish Independent , the former lock - who played 36 Tests and competed at three World Cups - bemoaned the impact Pocock had at the breakdown and slowing down opposition ball.

"I think David Pocock is a cancer on the game," Francis wrote.

"Yes, I do have grudging admiration for all his abilities and it is great when you have a player like that in your side... he had six legal turnovers and three illegal turnovers, and he and his buddy Michael Hooper managed to slow the ball down more than enough to stop any rhythm that Ireland looked like they were beginning to achieve.

"You have to make special preparations to counter Pocock."

When informed by journalists of the comment on Thursday, Cheika took issue with Francis' phraseology.

"That guy needs to choose his words better," Cheika said.

"To be honest, it's not a very nice thing to say.

Neil Francis of Ireland in action against France in 1990.
Neil Francis of Ireland in action against France in 1990.

"I wouldn't say anything about what he thinks about Poey's footy, I just think that's not a very nice term to use.

"I mean there's people that are really sick out there.

"He used to say a lot of stuff about us when I coached Leinster as well - some unflattering words he would use for his own publicity."

Breakdown specialists such as Pocock, Richie McCaw and George Smith have always been scrutinised heavily for their ability to dictate terms in a Test match and turn the ball over.

Pocock was outstanding in his first Test in 18 months as the Wallabies drew first blood against Ireland in the 18-9 win last weekend in Brisbane.

Cheika said his champion flanker wouldn't be bothered by the latest pilfering palaver.

"He'll wear it, he's a tough guy," the coach said.

"I think it's been a bit over blown. He's just going to rucks and trying to make tackles and get up.

"That's football, that's the game, that's rugby. I don't know why it's such a big deal.

"He's working hard, he's got great work ethic and he's tough.

"He can take a battering and he can keep getting up.

"He's doing what he does, his contribution to the footy team."

While Will Genia was named man of the match, Pocock's 18 tackles, three turnovers and second half try were hugely influential in the win at Suncorp Stadium.

Pocock didn't have it all his own way, though.

He was penalised twice by Marius van der Westhuizen for being off his feet, but the margins were razor thin on both occasions.

Ireland has recalled outstanding Leinster flanker Dan Leavy this week and the breakdown is sure to be hotly contested again.

"I'm not going to talk to the refs about it," Cheika said.

"They've got enough on their plates then worrying about that stuff.

"They'll (Ireland) probably try to tie him (Pocock) up, maybe carry the ball at him - it's going to be up to him to work his way out of it and get to the next thing.

"It's just up to interpretation.

"Maybe it's finally set in that it's just the way it is and you've got to get on with the next thing.

"He had a good go at it.

"If he didn't get pay, get on to the next one and the key thing is we're trying to reduce penalties and our margin.

"The margin that we normally have against Ireland, shrunk for us.

"We've got to give away less penalties than them to give us the chance of being consistent in the game."

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