Zim-born Aussie flanker rated better than McCaw

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Zimbabwean-born Wallabies openside flanker David Pocock could barely contain his pride when informed by journalists on Thursday that one of his childhood rugby heroes had labelled him the world’s best flank.

Pocock grew up in Zimbabwe and emigrated to Australia in 2002

The bold declaration that Pocock has surpassed New Zealand captain Richie McCaw (30) as the best flank in the world arose from an unlikely source, former All Blacks back row Josh Kronfeld.

In an interview with UK newspaper The Times, Kronfeld described the 23-year-old Wallaby as a “master” of the open-side position.

“A good number 7 can make or break a team,” Kronfeld was quoted as saying.

“Look at David Pocock. He is the form number 7 of the world at the moment, a master.”

The Wallaby flank, Pocock, had plenty of praise of his own for Kronfeld.

“It’s great coming from a bloke like Josh Kronfeld. He was a legend,” Pocock said.

“I remember watching him when I would have been at primary school, with his headgear.”

Kronfeld (40) who forged a reputation as a fearless All Blacks flank during the 1990s, donned distinctive black-and-white headgear throughout his 54-cap international career.

Pocock said long hours of watching rugby on television as a child had left him in awe of Kronfeld’s tenacity at the breakdown and persistent ability to sneak a try.

“He was one of those loosies (loose forwards) who always had it right because he’d follow the wings, whether it be Jonah (Lomu) or whatever, and when they got tackled near the line they’d pop it up to him and he’d score the try.”

When asked if he hoped to emulate the feats of his Kiwi admirer, Pocock was modest in his own self-assessment.

“He’s a legend of the game. I think I’ve got a long way to go yet.”

Pocock has been earning rave reviews for his on-the-ball scavenging in the rucks and looms as one of the Wallabies’ major weapons over the next six weeks at the World Cup.

The 23-year-old Zimbabwean-born Pocock is one of the youngsters in Robbie Deans’s revamped team since taking over as Wallaby coach in 2008 and has made 34 international appearances.

The powerfully-built Western Force flank was honoured to be rated so high by one of his schoolboy sporting heroes.

Such is Pocock’s importance to the Wallabies’ chances that Deans did not include a back-up specialist number 7 among his 30-man World Cup squad. Pocock, rated as a future Wallaby captain, was one of two Australians nominated for last year’s IRB Player of the Year award.

He looms as an integral member of the Wallabies’ campaign at the World Cup and is relishing the opening game against Italy and their formidable forward pack.

“The Italians build pressure really well and they take the points on offer and build that lead on the scoreboard and make teams chase them,” Pocock said.

“They proved against France in this year’s Six Nations that they can close out a big game like that. So they are definitely one of the teams who have improved the most in the four years leading to this World Cup and we’re in for a good game.”