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Coach Warren Gatland warns Wales on David Pocock

David Pocock
David Pocock was born in Zimbabwe and moved to Australia in 2002

Warren Gatland has pinpointed Australia flanker David Pocock as the man Wales have to stop in their opening autumn series clash at Cardiff.

Pocock was the man of the match the last time the Wallabies were in Cardiff when they beat Wales 33-12 in 2009.

And openside Pocock also played a big part in Australia beating New Zealand 26-24 in Hong Kong on Saturday.

"There is nobody better in the world at the moment than Pocock at turnovers at the breakdown," said Gatland.

"He is extremely physical [and] effective. He caused a huge amount of problems last year and we need to make sure we look after that area.

"We have got to be effective at cleaning out from our ball and make sure he does cause the problems that he has been causing."

Gatland, who is due to unveil his Wales line-up for the Australia clash on Thursday, has flagged up 22-year-old Pocock's influence as being crucial especially as English referee Wayne Barnes is in charge of the match.

In the clash between Australia and South Africa during the Tri Nations Series Barnes was the referee when Pocock had a big game at the breakdown.

"I watched the last time Wayne refereed Australia against South Africa and we have got to combat Pocock.

"Again at the weekend he was really effective and the last time when Wayne refereed there was something like four clean turnovers at the breakdown.

"We have to make sure a job on Pocock and that's going to be crucial for us. If he does create the four turnovers at the breakdown that could be 14 points or could be very costly.

"So ball security has to be paramount and we have to be very physical with him at that area."

Gatland knows that the Wallabies could be a bigger threat after they ended the All Blacks' 15-match winning record in the Bledisloe Cup game in Hong Kong.

I hope the Wallabies celebrated long and hard on Saturday night in Hong Kong!

Warren Gatland

Australia were trailing in the final moments before wing James O'Connor converted his own injury-time try to secure victory for Australia and end a 10-match losing streak against the All Blacks.

"I hope the Wallabies celebrated long and hard on Saturday night in Hong Kong!" added Gatland.

But despite Australia's recent results Gatland has noticed improvement in their form.

"I thought towards the end of the Tri-Nations they should have beaten the All Blacks in Melbourne. They beat South Africa.

"They were showing signs of a team that are scoring tries, that are looking dangerous. A little bit likes us, when they are fit and everyone is available, they are a very strong outfit.

"[But if] they pick up two or three key players with injuries, probably with their lack of numbers they are a little bit vulnerable at the next tier down. We know what that is like.

"But they are looking really dangerous at the moment. There is a job to do in looking after their back-three - O'Connor's footwork and [Kurtley] Beale's footwork is very impressive, and we know with [Quade] Cooper he runs some fantastic lines.

"But the exciting thing about it, with the interpretation of the rules, it gives us an opportunity to play. It allows both teams to play some expansive rugby and use the threats both teams have."

Gatland claims he is "reasonably clear" on the composition of his starting line-up against Australia.

Injuries mean the New Zealander cannot call on full-back Lee Byrne, wing Leigh Halfpenny, centre Jonathan Davies or back-row forward Ryan Jones.

That quartet's absence has undoubtedly weakened Welsh chances of improving their record against Tri Nations opposition during Gatland's coaching reign, which currently stands at one win from nine starts.

Gatland could name centre James Hook, who has announced he is to leave the Ospreys, as a probable replacement for Byrne, Tom Shanklin and Andrew Bishop forging the midfield partnership and either Dan Lydiate or Sam Warburton packing down at blindside flanker.

"We are reasonably clear in our own minds what the side might be - we will just make the decision on Thursday," said Gatland, whose original intention had been to name his side on Tuesday.

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see also
Wales vow to play Australia style
02 Nov 10 |  Welsh
Gatland's faith in Wales rookies
04 Nov 10 |  Welsh
Wales 'should lower expectations'
01 Nov 10 |  Welsh
Wales 12-33 Australia
28 Nov 09 |  Welsh
Australia 26-24 New Zealand
30 Oct 10 |  Rugby Union
'Awesome' Rees hailed by Jenkins
27 Oct 10 |  Welsh
Hook happy to fill Wales 15 shirt
26 Oct 10 |  Welsh
Law tweaks set up Wales for glory
25 Aug 10 |  Welsh


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