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Liam Gill best 'on-ball openside' in Australia
January 29, 2014
The Reds' Liam Gill carries the ball against the Hurricanes, Queensland reds v Hurricanes, Super Rugby, Suncorp Stadium, Brisbane, March 1, 2013
Liam Gill is as good as Michael Hooper, Richard Graham says © Getty Images
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Liam Gill is the best on-ball openside flanker in Australia and he could have matched Michael Hooper's meteoric rise to the 2013 John Eales Medal had he been given the opportunity when David Pocock's serious knee injury last year opened the door, Richard Graham says.

"I have no doubt," Graham said.

"Over the ball, he is the best in Australia - better than Pocock. His lineout ability is a real strength. And some of the things that you saw in his skill set last year left people astounded."

Pocock returns to action in the Brumbies' first pre-season trial against the Highlanders in Queenstown on Friday, having missed almost the entire 2013 Super Rugby season after tearing the anterior cruciate ligament in his left knee in March.

"It's the exact same scenario as it was 12 months ago," Gill said of the battle for the Wallabies' No.7 jumper.

"Everyone was fit and healthy and then George Smith came in. There's always tough competition for a No.7 jersey. We started in the same manner last year so, hopefully, I will go head-to-head with both David and Michael first up."

Gill won't have to wait long to test his skills as the Reds play Pocock's Brumbies on February 22 and Hooper's New South Waratahs on March 1 in their opening two Super Rugby fixtures.

Hooper played all but one of the Wallabies' 15 Tests last year, while Gill made seven appearances off the bench, filling all back-row positions. Gill has played blindside flanker as a replacement during his 15-Test career, but he is clear that he wants to go head-to-head with Pocock and Hooper for the Wallabies' No.7 spot.

"If my game suits six, I will play six, but I think I am an out and out seven," Gill said. "I am confident of my ability and the way I can develop and keep getting better."

© AAP

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