Rugby-Wallabies still sweating on Pocock before U.S. clash
WELLINGTON, Sept 20 |
WELLINGTON, Sept 20 (Reuters) - Australia flanker David Pocock had made "massive improvement" recovering from a back injury but it was still too early to tell if he would be available for the Wallabies' crucial rugby World Cup match against the United States, assistant coach David Nucifora said on Tuesday.
Pocock was a late withdrawal for Australia's Pool C loss to Ireland at Eden Park on Saturday and his absence proved a major blow for the Wallabies, who lack a specialist openside flanker as back-up in their squad and had to resort to using number eight Ben McCalman in the role.
McCalman's influence in the game was negligible as Ireland's openside Sean O'Brien dominated the breakdown and put scrumhalf Will Genia under constant pressure in their upset 15-6 victory.
"We have to see how he comes along and improves over the next day or two," Nucifora told reporters at the team hotel of 23-year-old Pocock's recovery.
"At this point we're hopeful.
"If you saw him on match day last week and see him now -- it's a massive improvement.
"But if there is any doubt we won't risk any of our players making something that is relatively minor into something major."
Australia's loss to Ireland has put greater weight on winning their final two pool matches against the U.S. and Russia to qualify for the quarter-finals as one of the top two teams in Pool C.
They will likely be condemned, however, to the same side of the draw as champions South Africa and hosts New Zealand in the knockout stage.
Winger Digby Ioane is the only other injury concern for the Wallabies as they prepare to take on the U.S. "Eagles" at Wellington Regional stadium on Friday.
Ioane, who broke his thumb against Italy in the Wallabies' opening game, was hoping to have the cast on his right forearm removed this week.
The Wallabies' coaching staff have retained him in their squad in the hope he will recover in time for the knock-out phase -- should they advance that far.
"It all depends on my rehab ... I don't want to get ahead of myself," Ioane said.
"Anything could happen with the next two games, but if we do make it I will definitely try to be there ... for the quarter (final) if we get there, but after last week's game it's going to be hard."
The 26-year-old, who was born in Wellington and planned to catch up with family for "a feast" later on Tuesday, said he had not even known he had done any damage to his thumb during the match against the Italians.
"I was so pumped that I didn't realise until the next day when I looked at my thumb and I said to the doc, 'does this look right?'
"Then I had the scan and got the news. Bit disappointed but that's rugby. There's no need to be down about it ... it could have been worse. It could have been my shoulder."
Both Ioane and Nucifora said the team's video de-briefing of the Ireland match on Monday had not been enjoyable.
"We know the areas we didn't perform as well as we should have in the match," Nucifora said. "We are going to have to improve in those areas.
"It was straightforward and there for everyone to see. We just have to get better."
(Editing by Ian Ransom; To comment on this story email email@example.com) Please double click on the newslink: for more rugby stories
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