CANBERRA: Injury-plagued Australian great David Pocock said he was racing to be fit for the World Cup as he announced his retirement from Super Rugby on Tuesday, three games before the end of the season.
The 31-year-old flanker has failed to shake off the calf injury that has dogged his season with the ACT Brumbies, for whom he has played only 138 minutes this year.
The former Australia captain, who took a sabbatical in 2017 in a bid to extend his career, has also suffered neck and concussion problems since returning to rugby last year.
Pocock, considered a master of the breakdown and vital to Australia’s World Cup hopes, is also known for his outspoken activism in areas such as gay rights, conservation and global warming.
“Personally, disappointed … I wasn’t expecting it. It’s just one of those things that you’ve got to deal with,” Pocock told reporters in Canberra of the abrupt end to his 13 years of professional rugby in Australia.
“I think the best thing now is to take the pressure off to get it (the recovery process) right.
“To pull on the Wallabies jersey again is obviously my goal. It’s a huge honour and something that I love doing. I’ll be doing everything that I can to get myself right and get into the best shape I can.”
Pocock, who will take up a contract in Japanese rugby after the World Cup, did not say whether he wants to continue with the Wallabies after the tournament in Japan.
The Canberra-based Brumbies said his injury is a “rare calf strain that is unfortunately not progressing as hoped”.
“No exact timeframe for a return to playing can be provided at this stage,” the club added.
The uncertainty over Pocock has cast a further shadow over Australia’s World Cup preparations after the loss of star fullback Israel Folau, who was sacked last week for posting homophobic comments on social media.
Pocock and Folau, Super Rugby’s all-time top try-scorer, were both viewed as key for the Wallabies, who have dropped to sixth in the rankings after suffering their worst season in decades last year.
‘Plenty of other stuff to do’
Pocock, who has twice won Australia’s top rugby award, the John Eales Medal, will play for Japan’s Panasonic Wild Knights after the World Cup.
The 77-Test veteran will not seek a new contract with Australian Rugby after it runs out this year, but will remain eligible to play for the Wallabies.
Although Pocock has yet to call time on his international career, he told the Canberra Times earlier: “I haven’t put anything in stone, but I think that’s it.
“I feel like I’ve put a lot into my rugby, I’ve got a huge amount out of it and I’m very grateful for the opportunities I’ve had.
“But there’s plenty of other stuff out there to do, and it’s time to start stepping into whatever that’s going to be.”
Born in Zimbabwe, Pocock started playing rugby as an eight-year-old before his family fled the African nation and moved to Brisbane when Robert Mugabe’s government enforced radical land seizures.
He made his debut for the Western Force in 2006 just weeks after turning 18 and went on to collect 69 caps with the Force over seven years before moving to the Brumbies in 2013.
His early years with the Brumbies were derailed by injuries, but in 2015 he collected a swathe of awards after a strong season. He finishes his Super Rugby career with 112 appearances and 19 tries.
Pocock, a formidable ball-poacher and turnover specialist, was one of the Australia stars at the 2011 World Cup and again in 2015, when they unexpectedly reached the final.
In 2012, he became the 79th Wallabies captain at the age of 23.