Australia v British & Irish Lions, Melbourne, June 29
O'Connor wants another crack at fly-half
June 25, 2013
James O'Connor is confident of doing the job at No.10 on Saturday night © Getty Images
Under-fire playmaker James O'Connor has stressed he wants another crack at the Wallabies No.10 jersey and has a better chance to show his true colours in Saturday night's do-or-die battle with the British & Irish Lions.
The scrutiny over the novice fly-half's playmaking appointment has only risen since the weekend's first Test 23-21 loss in Brisbane, but O'Connor's confidence in his ability hasn't dropped.
Wallabies coach Robbie Deans faces a tough choice between keeping faith with O'Connor or moving him out wide and promoting Kurtley Beale into No.10 for the second Test in Melbourne.
However, the expected availability of inside centre Christian Lealiifano, who had trained as a pivotal figure outside O'Connor, could well see the same inside back combination remain. That's exactly what the Melbourne Rebels star wants in his home Test.
"One hundred per cent," O'Connor said. "Not too fazed where I start but I would definitely love another crack at 10. I thought we played pretty well. I guess you could see we were in it the whole game. I thought we did some good things and I think we let some things go on the weekend. You're always better for playing Test matches and playing with the guys around you."
While he was happy with his game, Alan Jones on Tuesday became the latest former Australian coach to say Quade Cooper is the man best equipped to unleash the Wallabies best attacking talents.
While code-hopping freak Israel Folau scored two first-half tries, he hardly sighted the ball in the second half, and some blame needs to be laid at the feet of O'Connor.
James O'Connor feels the Wallabies have to "step it up"%]
To be fair to the 22-year-old, the first-minute loss of the concussed Lealiifano was a huge disruption, especially as centre replacement Pat McCabe plays a completely different direct-running game. Lealiifano is regarded as fit to play in Melbourne in a massive boost, according to O'Connor.
"He's a big part of our starting 15," he said. "It's always tough losing one of your main ball-players in the first minute, the first tackle, especially your first-choice goalkicker as well. It's awesome that he's back and he's fit and good to go. With Christian playing, it does bring that extra ball-playing ability."
Although he missed two late penalty goals that would have stolen the win, Beale's promotion to starting side is a near certainty.
As well as deciding where to fit him in at either No.10 or fullback, with Berrick Barnes (head knock) out, Deans must also at least choose a wing replacement for Digby Ioane (shoulder).