November 23, 2018 / 1:31 PM / 18 days ago

Australia lose breakdown specialist Pocock for England test

LONDON (Reuters) - Australia have suffered significant disruption after their breakdown master David Pocock was ruled out of Saturday’s final November international against England at Twickenham and two players were not considered for a breach of team protocol.

Rugby Union - Australia Captain's Run - Twickenham Stadium, London, Britain - November 23, 2018 Australia's David Pocock during the captain's run Action Images via Reuters/Peter Cziborra

Pocock injured his neck in the 26-7 victory over Italy last weekend but was named to start against England by coach Michael Cheika on Thursday.

The number eight has since failed a fitness test and will be replaced by Pete Samu who was initially named on the bench.

Cheika also confirmed on Friday that experienced winger Adam Ashley-Cooper and centre Kurtley Beale had not been considered for the test following what he described as a “minor incident”.

Local media reported that Ashley-Cooper invited his sister-in-law and two friends to his hotel room after the 9-6 loss to Wales a fortnight ago.

“There’s different times where we bring our families into the hotel and things like that but this was different,” Cheika told reporters.

“Even though there’s nothing sinister, I still think the rules are rules, the team law is the team law and I think that’s where we’ve got to go.

“We’ve got to make this team better and stop making the small excuses, ‘I didn’t understand that that would be, I thought that would be okay,’.

“I feel a little bit for the guys that it is out in the public. But they’ve done nothing to hurt anybody else.

“They’ve let their team mates down in this instance, for sure, and that’s where it should lay but I understand that’s not the world we live in anymore.”

Pocock is recognised as among the best “fetchers” in world rugby, turning over opposition ball at rucks and breaking their momentum on attack.

His loss will be greatly felt by the Australians, who have won only four of their 12 tests in 2018.

“Dave pushed himself really hard to get in contention to go, as he always does,” captain Michael Hooper said.

“He puts his body in such great condition. To not get there this time is disappointing for him and the team.

FILE PHOTO: Rugby Union - Rugby Test - England v Australia's Wallabies - Brisbane, Australia - 11/06/16. Injured Wallaby David Pocock reacts in the second half. REUTERS/Jason O'Brien/File Photo

“I’ve got more than enough faith in Pete to come in. He’s been a real Mr Fix It in those roles and he’s come up with some really good plays.”

Pocock, who took a year out from international rugby in 2017, has been nursing a neck injury for most of the season which forced him out of Australia’s home Rugby Championship test against South Africa in September.

He has been playing in the number eight position to accommodate Hooper on the flank, but has won the majority of his 77 caps on the side of the scrum.

Reporting by Nick Said,; Editing by Ed Osmond

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