David Pocock no clearer on breakdown interpretation, side entry

Wallabies breakdown ace David Pocock doesn't believe players can "cut corners" at the tackle, but he says "side entry" has certainly become more prevalent over the last few years.

Pocock started at No. 6 in the Wallabies come-from-behind 39-21 victory in their Rugby World Cup opener against Fiji in Sapporo, but was unable to really get on the ball and implement the skills that have made him among the best breakdown exponents of all time.

He was also seemingly the target of focus for the officials during the match with Wallabies coach Michael Cheika later revealing he had heard discussions through the referee's mic to "watch Pocock."

Pocock played the diplomat when asked if he'd received any clarity around the way he approaches the tackle and how the officials had signaled him out in Sapporo, but also noted the Wallabies were reasonably light on for turnover opportunities as they didn't do much defending at all.

"As a player all you want is communication and consistency from refs," Pocock said Tuesday. "Refs are out there doing their best too, and trying to do that, so you can't ask for too much more.

"When you look at our statistics we didn't do that much defence [against Fiji], sometimes it pans out that way and when the phases go on that's when you get your opportunities.

"Fiji were pretty electric off a few turnovers, it's not the greatest sight as a forward when you look up from a maul or scrum and they're underneath the sticks. We'll definitely be looking to limit that this week."

For the record, Australia were asked to make just 79 tackles of which they missed 24, compared with a whopping 170 the Fijians were confronted with and of which they made 129. That equates to a 70 percent success rate for the Wallabies against the Fijians' 76 percent, leaving the Wallabies significant room for improvement this Sunday against Wales.

Whether Pocock is retained in the No. 6 jersey remains to be seen, particularly given Wales will pose a far more serious threat at lineout time than John McKee's side managed in Sapporo. But the Six Nations champion also have two breakdown workhorses of their own in Justin Tipuric and Josh Navidi, who are both extremely capable of winning vital turnovers.

As for the breakdown at the World Cup across the board, there has already been plenty of commentary about the level of side entry. And it was put under the microscope on Sunday during Scotland's lacklustre 27-3 loss to Ireland after back-rower Hamish Watson suffered a serious knee injury after he was hit from the side, a knock which has since seen him ruled out of the remainder of the tournament.

Asked directly about the Watson incident Pocock pointed to Super Rugby for a trend he had seen emerge at the tackle over the last few seasons, one that was having a fair degree of success.

"I guess it's something that's really been happening more and more in Super Rugby over the last couple of years is when guys are on the ball, that kind of side entry, it's easy to get guys off the ball," Pocock said.

"As a player, that's all down to how the refs, what pictures they're wanting to see at the ruck. I'm not sure what they're talking about, what they're looking for when someone is on the ball, where the attackers are coming from."

Pocock, whose Test career will wind up whenever the Wallabies' journey comes to an end in Japan, has fought his way back from two separate knee injuries before a persistent neck complaint brough a premature end to his 2018 campaign. He was also forced to call time on Super Rugby earlier this year to recover from a calf injury that for a while looked like it might keep him out of the World Cup.

But he continues to thrive on the contest and remains committed to being the go-to man for the Wallabies over the ball.

"It was pretty sore towards the back end of last year ... it was just about getting it strong again. Giving it some time off and getting it strong. I guess this year with the year I had, I had the opportunity to do that," he said of his neck injury.

"You're doing a huge amount of practice on arriving. Arriving there [breakdown] first, arriving there low, and arriving there on your feet. Getting straight on to the ball and trying to steal it. You're not trying to buy time on the ball on your elbows, you're trying to get in there and be efficient.

"We've been doing a lot of work as a back row and it's something that we'll continue to work on through the tournament. After most sessions we're doing work, extras."

Cheika will unveil his team to face Wales on Friday.