Sky Sports rugby union writer Tony Curtis believes the return of David Pocock will have given Lions coach Warren Gatland plenty to ponder.
By Tony Curtis - Follow me on Twitter @SkysportsTC. Last Updated: 22/02/13 8:37am
British and Irish Lions coach Warren Gatland will have been forgiven for choking on his cornflakes on Saturday morning.
With the Super Rugby season getting off to a truncated start due to the summer visit of the Lions, four of the Australian Conference squared off.
And although one or two of the Wallabies - as well as the Waratahs - were missing from these opening exchanges, it was the performance of David Pocock on Saturday that would have made Gatland sit up and think.
Having suffered knee and calf injuries last year and then switched clubs from the Western Force to the Brumbies, Pocock had found his place in the No 7 jersey under threat.
Michael Hooper had stepped up to the mark, continuing his stellar form the 2012 Super Rugby season, while Liam Gill had been earning plenty of rave reviews.
However Pocock, whose arrival at the Brumbies came as Hooper opted to switch to the Waratahs, threw down a notable marker.
Going head-to-head with Gill at the Canberra Stadium, Pocock demonstrated openside play at its best. And given Pocock is still just 24, it was hardly a case of the master showing pupil how it is done.
Competition building for flanker role
Gill certainly had his moments. He made 46 metres with the ball in hand and 11 tackles, however it was at the breakdown Pocock excelled.
The Zimbabwean-born flanker, who has been capped 46 times, was quite simply a menace.
Nothing highlighted his impact more than his last involvement in the match. With the game finely poised at 14-6 to the Brumbies with 71 minutes played, the Reds were pushing hard for a way back into the clash.
However Pocock won the penalty at the breakdown and his smile as the Reds retreated with their tails between their legs told the whole story.
The breakdown had been an area the Reds had been looking to dominate, however with Pocock leading the way the Brumbies were able to negate the threat.
Pocock's performance earned special praise from his coach Jake White and will certainly have caught the eye of Gatland, who has issues over who to select as his openside in the three-Test series against the Wallabies.
Sam Warburton, the man he helped turn into a serious contender as one of the world's top No 7, has looked woefully out of sorts in recent matches. So much so that Justin Tipuric is now challenging to move ahead of him in the pecking order with Wales.
From the other unions, Chris Robshaw's reputation continues to grow, though, while Sean O'Brien is a destructive runner on his day and Kelly Brown is massively underrated.
However Gatland's eye will be very much on the next round of Super Rugby action, with Pocock and the Brumbies facing the Rebels, while Hooper and Gill with clash in a battle of the young pretenders when the Waratahs take on the Reds.
The pinnacle of British and Irish rugby, the Lions tour, returns and heads to Australia. Sky Sports will broadcast the entire tour live with all three Tests against the Wallabies plus all seven tour matches. For the first time, the inaugural tour match will take place in Hong Kong. The British & Irish Lions tour will be the fifth consecutive tour shown exclusively live on Sky.