Have we seen the end of the Pooper combination? Picture: Dan Mullan/Getty Images
Have we seen the end of the Pooper combination? Picture: Dan Mullan/Getty Images

World Cup officials could kill off Pooper combo

AUSTRALIA'S under-fire selectors may be forced to make the one difficult choice they've managed to avoid for years unless the Wallabies can find a way to control the breakdown at the World Cup.

That's the one area the Wallabies have had an advantage over their rivals in recent years, thanks to the combined skills of Michael Hooper and David Pocock, who have been picked in tandem rather than one over the other.

It comes at a cost because it reduces Australia's lineout options and with the 'Pooper' combo struggling to control the breakdown in Japan, a re-think may be needed.

The numbers so far aren't great.

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While both men have got through a mountain of work in Australia's opening two matches, their efforts haven't been rewarded at the breakdown, with Pocock winning just two turnovers and Hooper only one.

"It seems like refs are not really giving much penalties away at ruck time to the person pilfering. You've just got to leave it," said hooker Tolu Latu, another crafty thief over the ball.

"Refs are not giving pay to people getting on the ball. You have to survive probably two cleanouts. And it's a fair bit of time to be in there. It's probably better to be in D line and getting your line sorted so that you can get up and make tackles."

The Wallabies have made no secret of their frustration at the refereeing at the World Cup so Latu didn't want to poke the bear again, quickly adding that he reckons Pocock will win a stack of turnovers in his next match.

Pocock (R) and Hooper (L) at training. Picture: Dan Mullan/Getty
Pocock (R) and Hooper (L) at training. Picture: Dan Mullan/Getty

"The refs make calls and we just go by that. Poey is really good at getting on the ball, I am sure he will come back this weekend and prove me wrong and probably get six turnovers."

With the selectors already criticised for ditching halves Nic White and Christian Lealiifano for Will Genia and Bernard Foley in a move that backfired, splitting the successful Pooper combination would be a huge call.

Prop Scott Sio suggested the real challenge was to find a way to counter the way other teams are retaining possession at the ruck.

"Sometimes the ruck speed was so quick, you've got a second to make a judgement there," he said.

"With the defensive breakdown and the attacking breakdown, all these teams are so good at not only maintaining ball but also slowing it down.

"We've got to just come up with different things depending on the personnel as well that we are playing against."

Michael Hooper and David Pocock’s jersey side-by-side in the Sapporo changerooms. Picture: Dan Mullan/Getty Images
Michael Hooper and David Pocock’s jersey side-by-side in the Sapporo changerooms. Picture: Dan Mullan/Getty Images
News Corp Australia


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