When David Pocock arrived on the Super Rugby scene as a teenager in 2006 he immediately put pressure on veteran openside flankers George Smith and Phil Waugh.
Pocock is now unchallenged as the best openside in Australia, if not the world. But Wallabies selectors hope Queensland Reds teenager Liam Gill will be able to put some pressure on Pocock in the coming years.
Known for his skill at the breakdown, Gill is seen as the emerging No 7 in Australian rugby.
The youngest member of the Reds’ Super Rugby title-winning team last year, Gill, 19, played nine games in what was his rookie season, including the semi-final and final.
“I’m a lot more confident,” he said. “Last year was a stepping stone. I was eased into Super Rugby. Rather than 10 minute-cameos . . . I’d love to put together more game time and figure out how to play at the Super Rugby level.”
In one of the two games in which he started last year, Gill received one of the biggest lessons of his brief career when he went head to head with Pocock in the Reds’ come-from-behind 24-21 win against Western Force in Perth.
Pocock dominated the breakdown in a man-of-the-match performance, which Gill still studies on video. “I try to work out why he is so good and what he does. It was a massive learning experience. It was tough but I loved it.”
With Pocock set to play for the Force against the Reds in their trial in Perth on Thursday night, Gill will most likely get a chance to tussle with him again. “I’d like to think I’d be more confident,” Gill said. “He is arguably the best in the world. It’s a big thing going up against him. It’s intimidating.”
But before he can challenge Pocock, he has to secure the Reds’ No 7 jersey, which was worn last season by the highly physical Beau Robinson. “It will be a hard battle. We will keep each other honest.”
Meanwhile, Reds outside centre Anthony Faingaa will make an earlier-than-expected return from a shoulder injury against the Force.
Faingaa, who had surgery to remove a bone from his shoulder, was not due to return until the opening game of the season, against New South Wales Waratahs in Sydney on Saturday week.
Faingaa’s twin, Saia, will miss the Force game because of an ankle injury.
Buford Balony says: He’s not even QLD’s No7…how is he going to challenge the best 7 in Rugby.