World Cup: Even Kiwis are saying Pocock is unstoppable

SOME say it's Dan Carter's tournament. And yes, the great man has risen to the task magnificently, and has the chance to be a World Cup final centrepiece after injury robbed him four years ago.

Lifting the trophy would be a fitting and perfect farewell to his wondrous test career.

But for my money, it has been David Pocock's tournament so far by a whisker over Carter.

The Australian No. 8 is the best of the best at the World Cup, even if he couldn't win man-of-the-match against Argentina in the entertaining semifinal at Twickenham.

Adam Ashley-Cooper, having scored three tries, got the man-of-the-match nod. But his tries were pretty much handed to him on a plate, whereas Pocock has to fight for every morsel of his supper.

Australia showed signs they are fading against Argentina, who play rugby in a glorious spirit which is how they got this far, and why they haven't gone any further.

The final will be a better contest for Australia's presence. They specialise in guile, whereas Argentina are still too gullible to match it with the All Blacks.

But the All Blacks are ready to pounce on the mouse which is roaring. Street fighter coach Michael Cheika has revived Australia, but the tournament was always going to stretch their power resources to breaking point.

The injured Israel Folau is so ineffective that he is a borderline liability - Cheika would be wise to start Kurtley Beale.

Their highly-respected scrum started creaking against the Pumas. Argentina's ball playing and running, from the likes of little flyhalf Nicolas Sanchez and wing Santiago Cordero, had the Wallabies grasping.

In the end, it was a fine Wallabies' win in a thrilling game, but a four-try to nil and 14 point victory did not reflect the flow.

Naivete hurt the Pumas but their game is heading in the right direction, unlike those of South Africa or a couple of northern hemisphere teams we could mention.

The difference was Pocock. He is the best ruck turnover merchant rugby has seen. He covers so much ground, knows where to go and how to strike.

Once he has latched on to the ball, opponents are left like a child trying to shift a sumo wrestler.

Pocock will win turnovers against the All Blacks because he cannot be stopped. But he will need to be at his very best.

A lot of factors are against Australia: Folau is ailing, the Australians were exhausted by a frenetic semifinal, there is a one-sided record over recent years, a re-invented Carter is pulling the strings brilliantly for the All Blacks, New Zealand has had an extra day's rest.

The Wallabies have nothing to match the impact potential of the All Blacks' bench, although burly hooker Tatafu Polata-Nau - a dormant volcano - made a couple of strong runs against the Pumas.

It looks like a massive mountain to climb for Cheika's side. The All Blacks are zooming in for the cup. Pocock is the key man who can release that grip.

Chris Rattue is a sports columnist for the New Zealand Herald.



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