Western Force coach Michael Foley will back Matt Hodgson and Chris Alcock to limit the influence of the Brumbies’ David Pocock.
The Western Force upset the David Pocock-less Brumbies to close the 2013 Super Rugby season and are now looking to repeat that dose on Saturday night as the flanker returns to Perth for the first time.
Pocock played the first seven seasons of his Super Rugby career with the Force where he grew into one of the very best No.7s in the world, before taking up a contract offer with the Canberra-based Brumbies ahead of the 2013 campaign.
However, his 2013 was ruined with a knee injury before he returned strongly last week in the Brumbies’ loss to the Queensland Reds, and now the Force are ready to welcome him on Saturday for his first appearance at nib Stadium as a visitor.
The Force won just four matches last season, but one was in the final round against the Brumbies where they overcame the class and experience of Pocock’s replacement, George Smith.
Now Pocock looms as the challenge but the Force are playing with two genuine No.7s, and coach Michael Foley has no doubt that his captain Matt Hodgson and the emerging Chris Alcock are up for the challenge.
“He is a physical player and you wouldn’t have known he had been out so long with his knee. We encountered George Smith here last year and the challenges he posed, and I think David will be the equal of that,” Foley said.
“Chris has an uncanny ability with the ball in his hand to break tackles, but he has the ground skills of your traditional fetching No.7.
“People sometimes question having two No.7s, but because of Chris’ ball-carrying skills and Matt’s ball-playing skills there is a good balance there.”
Foley, though, is confident the Perth crowd won’t be showing any displeasure towards Pocock over his departure.
“I think they will respond pretty well,” he said.
“He was a pretty popular member of the team here and there would be a lot of people disappointed, but I’m sure that our fans will want to see him play well but not win.
“The response to him will be fine.”
Despite last week’s 43-21 loss to the NSW Waratahs, Foley is confident of a strong showing against the Brumbies.
“They have spoken a bit this week about the game at the end of last year so they are keen, but so are we,” Foley said.
“I don’t think the word frustration ever came into our game plan last year, we just watched what the Brumbies did and tried to understand how we could make life difficult for them and create pressure.
“One of the things we did well last year was we did sustain pressure and when the opportunities came, we actually took them.”