TOKYO (Reuters) - Australia’s David Pocock thinks tier two rugby nations have improved greatly since the last World Cup and it is disrespectful to mark down the powers of the game for not racking up huge scores against them.
The Wallabies hold the record for the largest winning margin in a World Cup match with their 142-0 win over Namibia at the 2003 tournament but such blowouts have declined in number in recent editions.
There is always high expectation when the twice World Cup winners take on a minnow of the game, however, and some in Australia were underwhelmed by their 45-10 victory over Uruguay last weekend.
“As a player, sometimes I find it a bit disrespectful if people expect massive margins at the World Cup,” the flanker told reporters on Monday ahead of Australia’s final Pool D match against Georgia.
“I think some of the tier two nations have put a huge amount of work into their prep over the last four years and you’ve seen a massive improvement.
“Obviously, led by Japan, but also Namibia against New Zealand last night in the first half really held their own.”
Hosts Japan upset Ireland and are unbeaten after three matches at this tournament, while Namibia were trailing the All Blacks 10-9 after half an hour on Sunday before going down 71-9.
Pocock said the biggest improvement from the tier two nations had been in the sophistication of their defensive structures.
“Defensively, you look at Uruguay and Georgia you are definitely seeing different pictures every week,” Pocock added.
“They are clearly plugging a couple of things after each game ...
“You clearly seeing a lot of IP (intellectual property) moving around the world with coaches and that sort of thing, it’s great for world rugby.”
Pocock, who was born in Zimbabwe before moving to Australia with his family in his early teens, also said it was important that the tier two nations put in place structures to try to stop their best players getting poached.
The 31-year-old plans to hang up his boots at the end of this edition of rugby’s showpiece event but said he would still harbour one World Cup ambition for the nation of his birth, which featured at the first two tournaments in 1987 and 1991.
“I would love to see Zimbabwe at a World Cup,” he said.
“They’ve got so much talent at schoolboy level and it would make me very happy to see them running out on the world stage again.”
Editing by Peter Rutherford