SYDNEY (Reuters) - Former Australia flanker and captain David Pocock has retired from all rugby and will now concentrate on campaigning for conservation causes and work on rugby development programmes.
Pocock stepped down from international rugby following last year’s Rugby World Cup in Japan after 83 caps, but stayed in the country to play for Panasonic Wild Knights in the Top League.
“While it was a tough decision, it really feels like the right one now and as a lot of former athletes talk about, it’s not going to be smooth sailing but its going to be a great challenge,” the 32-year-old told Rugby Australia on Friday.
Pocock was considered one of the finest openside flankers to play the game, with his toughness over the ball at the breakdown often unmatched.
He was born in Zimbabwe but political unrest in the country forced his family to move to Australia in 2002.
He made his debut for the Wallabies in 2008 and his first Rugby World Cup in 2011 when he was almost single-handedly responsible for Australia beating South Africa in the quarter-finals.
Pocock was appointed captain in 2012 to succeed an injured James Horwill but suffered the first of several serious knee injuries in 2013 and was then replaced as the Wallabies first choice number seven by current captain Michael Hooper.
Successive coaches tried to play the pair in the same team with Pocock often playing number eight, which created issues with the balance of the side, although they still made the 2015 Rugby World Cup final against New Zealand.
Pocock often bucked officialdom and was vocal in his support for women’s rights, same sex marriage and for the environment, and was arrested in 2014 at a protest at a coal mine in northern New South Wales.
Pocock, who is completing a masters degree in sustainable agriculture, said he would now also work on development programmes for young rugby players.
“Rugby has given me so many opportunities, and I’m really keen to continue supporting the next generation of players here in Australia and in Zimbabwe,” he told the Guardian.
“There’s so much young talent in both places.”
Reporting by Greg Stutchbury in Wellington; Editing by Shri Navaratnam
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