ACT Brumbies coach Dan McKellar is unhappy with the rough treatment his star flanker David Pocock received from the Highlanders and says it is time to get serious about protecting players’ heads.
Pocock has wasted no time in destroying opposition sides at the breakdown in his comeback from a knee injury and a 12-month Australian rugby sabbatical, but his impact has come at a cost.
His dominance left the Otago Highlanders resorting to foul play to negate his influence at the breakdown on Saturday night as the Kiwi side comfortably won the Super Rugby clash 43-17.
McKellar says officials have to take control for fear of a serious injury after the incident barely prompted a response from referee Ben O’Keeffe.
He hopes Pocock isn’t given the same treatment against the resurgent Argentina Jaguares at Canberra Stadium on Sunday.
“We’ve been talking about protecting players’ heads, there just seems to be [a case] now that a few things have gone out the window,” McKellar said.
“That looked like a pretty nasty cleanout there so it’s important that we protect the players and I’m not sure if that was the case.
“He was unbelievable [during the game]. Just tough, mentally tough, physically tough. He cops treatment at just about every breakdown. He’d be the first player that every opposition team talks about from one week to the next.
“He just continues to deliver through his actions and his leadership too. He’s been outstanding since he came back and certainly over the last few weeks.
“I think Rory Arnold was very good too, 80 minutes in the middle … the effort was great across the board there, we just needed to [learn] from those key moments in the game.”
Arnold played 80 minutes for the second time in his 51-game career and the forward pack could soon earn some respite with back-rower Lolo Fakaosilea potentially on the cusp of a return.
Isi Naisarani will be monitored during the week and will have to pass concussion protocols after he copped a head knock against the Highlanders, but he has an eight-day turnaround working in his favour.
McKellar has his fingers crossed for Naisarani in the midst of an injury crisis at the Brumbies that has left the franchise to pluck players out of the local club competition and throw them into the Super Rugby cauldron.
The Brumbies mentor admits the club “can’t afford to lose too many more back-rowers, that’s for sure” as they fight to save their season on home soil with winger Henry Speight also nearing a return.
McKellar’s side is third in the Australian conference after the NSW Waratahs nudged themselves into first place with their fourth consecutive win – all over conference rivals.
Argentina have proven to be no easy-beats after they stunned the Melbourne Rebels on Saturday, hours before a trans-Tasman defeat left the Brumbies’ season hanging in the balance.
“They’re a dangerous side,” McKellar said.
“That first 40 minutes they played against the Waratahs early on in the year was as good as any team has played this year.
“[In the Rebels game] again they’ve obviously put out another good performance so they will have momentum, enthusiasm and belief on the back of that.
“We’ve just got to get back home and have a good week of training and continue to keep our season on track by getting a win.”
The Jaguares clash marks the first of three consecutive home games for the Brumbies in what looms as a crucial stretch that could make or break their season.
– Sydney Morning Herald
Source: www.stuff.co.nz (16th April 2018)