O'Connor returns home for Force debut - Sports News - Fanatics - the world's biggest events

O'Connor returns home for Force debut

By Tim Clarke 16/04/2008 06:33:03 PM Comments (0)

His coach says he has similar attributes to superstar flyhalf Matt Giteau.

His Western Force teammates jokingly liken him more to famous-for-five-minutes party boy Corey Delaney.

And while 17-year-old James O'Connor is as precocious as both onfield, his return home to Queensland for his Super 14 debut this weekend will be all work - with some play in the bye week which follows.

Already compared to both Giteau and Tim Horan, Force coach John Mitchell said O'Connor deserved his place in Super 14 despite his tender years - and would have been involved earlier if not for his place in Australia's sevens side.

And the young flyhalf, who is eligible for Australia, New Zealand and South Africa through his varied ancestry, said making a debut in his home state was an ideal scenario.

"I have been looking forward to playing all year ... and to get back and play in front of my family and friends, I can't wait to get out there," O'Connor said.

"I just want to play well, get my core skills out there and make an influence out on the game."

After moving to WA from Brisbane after graduating from renowned rugby nursery Nudgee College, O'Connor has been schooled by his hero Matt Giteau amongst others, with the motivation of learning from the Wallaby one of the reasons for his coming to Perth.

"I like the way Giteau plays, and he was a big influence on the move over here, he is really dynamic and has a lot of flair," O'Connor said.

"I also like (Dan) Carter as well - he is one of the best players going around, and has a lot of confidence in his kicking game.

"But I like to think I am my own player."

That view was endorsed by Mitchell - as well as rugby league recruiters, who are keen to bring him back to the code he turned his back on despite a scholarship with NRL side Parramatta at age 14.

"He's a pretty gifted kid and extremely confident in his abilities," Mitchell said.

O'Connor's sevens foray might not have pleased Mitchell, but it did bring the teenager into contact with former Wallaby legends David Campese and Mark Ella, an experience the Force prospect considered invaluable in his development.

"Obviously he (Campese) was before my time - before I was even born I think, but my Dad told me a lot about him," O'Connor said.

"They both gave me some great pointers about one on one individual stuff, not stepping too early and not taking it to the line enough.

"It is an awesome game, the fun part of rugby, making the breaks and one on ones. You cannot go hiding in Sevens, and especially defensively. I think I am ready to play in Super 14 now.

"But I was happy to get back here, play some more structured footy, because that was my goal this year."

Along with putting some bulk on a relatively small 180cm, 82kg frame.

"As I grew up I have always been the littlest guy. In under 12s I was up to some of the other guys' shoulders," O'Connor said.

"It is not really new, but obviously this is a lot stronger and faster so I am going have to cope with that."

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