Wallabies skipper Michael Hooper Friday urged rugby chiefs to start taking neck roll tackles more seriously after star flanker David Pocock was ruled out of their weekend clash against the Springboks with a “significant injury”.
All Blacks players were accused of targeting the influential No.8 with illegal neck rolls and twists to shift him from the ruck during their big Rugby Championship win in Auckland two weeks ago.
Owen Franks was penalised by the referee but the matter went no further, sparking concerns in Australia that not enough was being done to protect players from what could potentially be a serious injury.
“It’s a significant injury and a significant issue,” Hooper said of Pocock.
“As a coaching group we sent clips to (World Rugby and SANZAAR) and the coaches told me that it didn’t meet the red card threshold.
“Neck injuries are a pretty big part of the game and being in a similar position to David, you want to be protected and safe. This is what it’s about — player safety.”
Despite Pocock not able to take part in contact sessions this week in training, coach Michael Cheika had been optimistic he could play and named him in his team for Saturday in Brisbane.
But he has failed to recover with the exact nature or extent of the neck issues not revealed.
Pete Samu will replace him in the run-on side, joining Hooper and Lukhan Tui in the back row for his maiden Test start.
Cheika on Thursday had said the 30-year-old’s teammates needed to offer him better support at the breakdown, with the flanker also singled out by Ireland during their June Test series in Australia.
“He’s taking a lot of action to his head and neck and we need to protect him a bit more if he’s out there,” Cheika said of a player who has arguably been Australia’s best this year.
Hooper said he said not believe the All Blacks’ actions were particularly malicious but said the game needed to revisit the issue.
“I know, as a player, you’re not looking to intentionally inflict pain on someone or serious injury,” he said. “Sometimes these things do happen, but how we can avoid that is the conversations that we need to be having.”
Australian rugby great David Campese said he was furious that not enough was being done to protect Pocock, considered perhaps the world’s best player at the breakdown.
“Why do we have laws in rugby that are not enforced?” he asked on Instagram.
“The neck roll is illegal and very dangerous. As a parent with kids that play the game and a coach of grassroots rugby, I am appalled at an oversight of this nature.
“Where is the accountability from the referee or the IRB (International Rugby Board)?”