‘Yank his head off his shoulders’
Brumbies coach Dan McKellar has launched a pre-emptive strike to preserve the wellbeing of his star Wallabies flanker David Pocock.
Three weeks out from the start of Super Rugby, McKellar called on match and judiciary officials to come down hard on neck rolls in World Cup year, having grimaced as Pocock fell victim to the illegality in multiple games in 2018.
The 30-year-old was a runaway winner of the John Eales Medal in his return from a sabbatical last year, despite playing much of the season in discomfort.
His staunch work over the tackle ball spurred opponents to twist his neck as a clean-out technique, a potentially dangerous act which largely went unnoticed by referees and citing officials.
McKellar said Pocock needs better protection and shouldn't need to change his style of play, which makes him one of world rugby's finest forwards.
"We've just got to keep blokes from trying to yank his head off his shoulders," McKellar told AAP.
"The officials can do something differently by coming down harshly on what's a pretty dangerous act.
"I don't know why we keep talking about this to be honest, it's crystal clear."
Already favouring his neck after a rugged Super Rugby campaign, Pocock had to sit out last season's Rugby Championship Test against South Africa in Brisbane after being twisted by All Blacks prop Owen Franks at Eden Park two weeks earlier.
Franks was penalised but received no further sanction.
"It's because Poey's so bloody strong.
"He's over the ball and he's hard to move so you're pushing and pulling any way you can," McKellar said.
"But like anything, you've got to operate within the laws of the game and I think it's a massive safety issue."
Pocock was in pain for much of the Wallabies tour last November and missed the final Test against England at Twickenham.
McKellar said the 77 Test veteran was refreshed following an off-season break which included his wedding.
He had picked up a calf niggle but was expected to be fit for the Super Rugby season opener against the Rebels on February 15.
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