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David Pocock set to retire from test rugby after World Cup

September 6, 2019
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David Pocock passes the ball as the Australian rugby union team trains ahead of their test match against Samoa in Sydney, Australia, Friday, Sept. 6, 2019. (AP Photo/Rick Rycroft)
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David Pocock passes the ball as the Australian rugby union team trains ahead of their test match against Samoa in Sydney, Australia, Friday, Sept. 6, 2019. (AP Photo/Rick Rycroft)

David Pocock will retire from test rugby after the World Cup in Japan, ending an 11-year career for the Wallabies in which he starred on the field but also became respected as much off it for leading social justice and environmental campaigns.

Pocock will captain Australia against Samoa in Sydney on Saturday, in what will now be his final test in Australia and his 78th overall.

“I feel like it’s time to move onto other things and contribute in other areas,” Pocock said Friday at the team’s captain’s run.

The 31-year-old flanker announced his retirement from Super Rugby’s ACT Brumbies in May and is expected to play rugby in Japan next year.

“On a personal note you reflect on the time you’ve had in a Wallabies jersey, what you’ve tried to add, the legacy you hope you’ll leave and then just the opportunity to play in front of family and friends one last time,” Pocock said.

Saturday’s match will be Pocock’s fourth game of rugby this year and first test since last November after sustaining long-term calf injuries. He debuted against New Zealand in Hong Kong in 2008 and will go down as one of Australia’s finest back-rowers.

The Zimbabwean-born Pocock moved to Australia with his family when he was 14, forced to leave the African country due to unrest over the government’s land re-distribution policy.

Since achieving a high profile for his rugby skills, he has taken on many social causes, arguing for Australia to adopt same-sex marriage, which it has, and to end homophobia in sport.

He was also once arrested for protesting against a planned coal mine in New South Wales state, and has been a vocal environmental supporter and in commenting on the dangers of climate change.

Pocock said he and his longtime partner, Emma Palandri, who held a commitment ceremony in 2010, would not marry until same-sex marriage was legal in Australia. They were married on Dec. 1, 2018, about a year after the Australian government enacted legislation to allow same-sex marriage.

“At the time in 2010 we had a little ceremony with family and friends, but decided we didn’t want to sign anything our friends couldn’t,” Pocock said in a magazine interview in 2018.

“It’s kind of just been a personal stand ... now the (same-sex marriage debate) is done, it’s a good thing. I think everyone should be grateful to the activists and LGBTI folk who made this happen. I really do think it makes our society better going forward.”

While some professional sports stars’ Twitter feeds mostly talk about their game, Pocock’s social media is full of references to farming, wind turbines, climate change and nature photos.

“The earth is changing. We must change with it. We need to work together to design solutions for the planet we call home,” Pocock said in a tweet in June.

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