Australia No 8 David Pocock will hope he can attach himself as firmly to the New Zealand back row in Saturday’s World Cup final as he did to a digger last November.
The 27-year-old Zimbabwe-born backrow forward — whose family left the country when Robert Mugabe’s government enforced radical land seizures — has so many causes he feels worth fighting for it is extraordinary he has the time to be so focused on the pitch.
Gay rights, climate change, wildlife preservation — he resembles a panda with the two black eyes acquired in last weekend’s semi-final win over Argentina — all come within his radar.
His attitude to the sport that pays his wages — and boosts the causes he espouses by virtue of his high profile — is not par for the course either.
“I’ve absolutely loved the game and I’m so grateful for the opportunity that it’s given me, but I’m very conscious of the fact that at the end of the day it’s a game,” he told reporters.
“It’s there to be enjoyed, it can offer so much to us, but there’s certainly a lot more to life than just chasing a rugby ball,” added Pocock, who says watching the 1995 World Cup final on his grandfather’s farm when South Africa beat New Zealand inspired him to take up the sport even though he spent half-time skateboarding.
– Black eyed P –
Pocock, who was arrested with a farmer for attaching themselves to a digger in a protest against a coalmine being opened in the middle of a state forest, has aroused coach Michael Cheika’s curiosity.
“I’ve got to know him a bit better now and he is a really interesting character away from the game,” Cheika said.
Away from being attached to diggers he is best know for his stance on gay rights. He said he will not marry his girlfriend until gay marriage is legalised in Australia. This year he forced an unprecedented halt to a Super Rugby match between his Brumbies side and the NSW Waratahs because of homophobic remarks made in the match by South African flanker Jacques Potgieter.
He was supported by team captain Stephen Moore in asking referee Craig Joubert to stop the game.
“We didn’t talk about it at length out there, but a couple of us heard it and when he went to the referee I was supportive of him and that’s something we’re really firm on here,” said Moore after the incident.
“In this day and age when we’re doing so much to promote inclusiveness in the game you can’t use any kind of language that is that offensive.”
Pocock’s stance upset some more conservative types in the Australia Rugby Union but he remains firm.
“It shouldn’t matter who you are and what your your skin colour is, or your sexuality,” he told International Gay Rugby.
“To participate in sport its always been so important for me and becoming part of a community.
“It is a travesty that people in our communities in Australia aren’t able to participate for fear of being judged and those who do participate aren’t open about their sexuality.”
Never the norm is the red-haired blue-eyed Pocock as was the case for his post semi-final wind down.
“We’re finding there’s a very diverse range of players and some players are whizzing around on Segways after a match and he’s in his room watching a David Attenborough documentary,” said Moore on Monday.
Pocock in his usual seize-the-moment spirit invited the 89-year-old nature historian to attend the final. Attenborough politely declined as he is returning from a trip abroad. – Agence France-Presse