O'Connor to work on speed - Cheika
July 5, 2015
O'Connor has struggled with injury throughout the Super Rugby season © Getty Images

Wallabies coach Michael Cheika hopes James O'Connor emerges from a special fitness program at his fleet-footed best in time to push for a spot in Tests against the All Blacks in August. O'Connor was left out of Cheika's 40-man squad for the opening two games of the Rugby Championship which starts against South Africa in Brisbane on July 18.

Whether he is part of the squad to face the All Blacks in Sydney for the Wallabies' third Test of the series on August 8 will depend on how he measures up on the training paddock. The 24-year-old has struggled with injury for the Queensland Reds in his return to Super Rugby this season after more than 12 months playing in England and France.

"We've got a fitness program running for him to get back. In particular, for the things that he's good at," Cheika told Triple M. "He hasn't had his 100 per cent speed back this season ... his footwork ... the things that have made him a really strong player for Australia previously. He needs to get those things back in his arsenal, so that when he he does get into the team he can perform and compete with the other wingers and back three players in the squad."

Jumping ahead of the O'Connor in the queue for the opening Tests of the Rugby Championship are Joe Tomane, Henry Speight, Rob Horne, uncapped 125kg bulldozer Taqele Naiyaravoro and Drew Mitchell. O'Connor was axed from the Wallabies in 2013 after a series of off-field incidents and is desperate to add to his 44-Test caps and play in his second World Cup in September-October.

The second Bledisloe Cup match is in Auckland on August 15.


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