Deans delighted by Pocock's return to fitness
AUSTRALIA coach Robbie Deans has hailed the return of star flanker David Pocock for tomorrow's tour finale against Wales at the Millennium Stadium.
Pocock has been a glaring absentee from the Wallabies starting XV since damaging his knee against the All Blacks in his side's opening match of the Rugby Championship in August.
A niggling calf problem has also meant he has been unable to feature so far on this northern hemisphere tour.
However, the scavenging openside, who many believe is close to New Zealand skipper Richie McCaw as the world's best seven, is back and raring to go as Australia attempt to claim a fifth victory over the Grand Slam champions in 12 months.
"David is one of the best in the world as a player and is growing every day as a leader, so naturally we are delighted to have him back," said Deans.
"While he has continued to contribute off the field, this tour has been one of frustration for him, but we were not prepared to take any risks and potentially compromise either the player or the team in terms of his fitness.
"The upside to the wait is that his return comes at a time where we need fresh energy, as was evident at times during our Test in Italy last weekend."
Pocock's return means there is no place in the side for Michael Hooper, man of the match in the Cook Cup victory over England at Twickenham.
"Michael has had a massive year and it was evident that for him, as well as some others, it was starting to take its toll last weekend," Deans added. "He's earned the right to finish the year on the park. Having the option of working him alongside David at some point during the contest is a win-win for us."
There are three other changes to the side who edged out Italy 22-19 in Florence last weekend.
Fit-again Kane Douglas is back in the second row in place of the suspended Sitaleki Timani, Tatafu Polota-Nau replaces Stephen Moore at hooker, while Nick Phipps comes in at scrum-half for the injured Brett Sheehan.
Waratahs scrum-half Brendan McKibbin is named on the bench after flying into join the squad on Tuesday. If he takes the field McKibbin will become the 42nd player used by Deans
Veteran lock Nathan Sharpe will retain the captaincy for his 116th and final Test before retirement.