Rugby: Wallabies flanker David Pocock considering taking one-year sabbatical to study in England

Wallabies flanker David Pocock's shock potential break from the game in 2017 would have huge ramifications for the Wallabies and Brumbies. Photo/Getty
Wallabies flanker David Pocock's shock potential break from the game in 2017 would have huge ramifications for the Wallabies and Brumbies. Photo/Getty

Wallabies star David Pocock is considering taking a year off from rugby to study in England for 12 months, while Queensland flanker Liam Gill is poised to join French glamour club Toulon, putting Australia's backrow stocks in disarray.

Pocock's shock potential break from the game in 2017 would have huge ramifications for the Wallabies and Brumbies, given he was the nation's best player at last year's World Cup.

The ARU is working feverishly to keep Pocock in Australia, but the final decision will rest with the 27-year-old backrower.

Renowned as much for his off-field endeavours as his on-field brilliance, Pocock is hardly an orthodox athlete and this latest news epitomises his approach to life and sport.

Pocock had two seasons completely ruined by successive knee injuries, yet came back last year to carry the Wallabies to the World Cup final and establish himself as a world-class No8.

But despite his form and claims to the Wallabies No.8 jersey, Pocock has a desire to take a complete break from rugby once his ARU contract expires on December 31 and turn his attention to intellectual pursuits.

The Daily Telegraph reports that as part of ongoing negotiations with the ARU and Brumbies, Pocock has asked for a 12-month sabbatical in 2017 to study, and then return in 2018 with a view to playing at the 2019 World Cup in Japan.

The Brumbies are desperate for Pocock to stay, but will not grant him a one-year absence.

"It creates all sorts of problems if Poey takes a break," Brumbies chief executive Michael Jones said.

"My preferred solution, and our offer to him, doesn't allow a break.

"There is still a fair bit of water to go under the bridge."

Adding to the intrigue is Gill's impending departure from Queensland Reds at the end of this season to join Toulon, who have on their roster several other notable Australians including Quade Cooper, Matt Giteau, Drew Mitchell and James O'Connor plus All Black Ma'a Nonu.

Pocock is now also being linked to the Reds as a potential replacement for Gill.

Queensland snuck under the radar to poach Brumbies captain Stephen Moore on a three-year deal starting from 2017, and Moore's influence could be vital in the Reds' bid to lure Pocock back to Brisbane where he played his junior rugby.

Gill said it was a tough call to make but that he would use it to help fuel his final season at the Reds.

"It was a very difficult decision, but I felt the time was right to challenge myself and play rugby in a different environment," Gill said.

"I feel I have done as much as I can in Australian rugby and now look to enjoy a new opportunity.

"It's really difficult to leave the Reds, but I'm excited by the opportunity this current group has for the season. This news just gives me even more drive to repay the faith of the QRU and the support of our fans."

Executive General Manager - Reds, Daniel Herbert said: "It's disappointing to be losing Liam to an overseas club, but we understand he has weighed up his options and decided this was too good an opportunity to refuse.

"Liam is a talented player and someone who has made a great contribution to the Reds over the past six years after graduating from our elite pathways system. He has international aspirations but plays in a position in which Australia have significant depth and he felt he would have limited Wallaby opportunities.

"Whilst we are disappointed to see him go there are limitations to what we are currently able to do if players garner overseas interest and aren't in the top band of Wallabies. We hoped a flexible contract would encourage Liam to stay in Queensland and Australia but in the end he felt this was his best option all things considered.

"We know his focus will remain on the Reds while he is still at Ballymore and hope his final year with us is a successful one."

At just 23, Gill has played 15 Tests for the Wallabies but in recent times has fallen down the pecking order to Pocock, Michael Hooper and Sean McMahon for national selection, and was not given any ARU top-up money when he re-signed with the Reds for the 2016 season.

It's believed Toulon's deal dwarfs those offered to Gill by Australian Super Rugby clubs including the Reds and Western Force, and he will depart at the conclusion of this Super season.

Pocock, meanwhile, is keen to study at either of England's most famous universities - Oxford or Cambridge - but his chosen field is unclear.

Pocock's website says he is currently studying a Bachelor of Ecological Agricultural Systems.

Never one to walk a traditional path, Pocock has been globally lauded for his strong advocacy of environmental and human rights issues.

- news.com.au

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