Where's Wally? With tour rookie O'Connor - Sports News - Fanatics - the world's biggest events

Where's Wally? With tour rookie O'Connor

By Adrian Warren 27/10/2008 06:26:33 PM Comments (0)

Teenage Wallaby rookie James O'Connor made the task of looking after a wayward team mascot sound like a labour of love.

The baby of the 34-man squad, 18-year-old O'Connor has enjoyed a rapid rise this year.

The Western Force utility back will become the second-youngest Wallaby in history if he plays in one of the five Tests on tour.

His Super 14 career to date has been limited to just four appearances.

As the youngest member of the squad, O'Connor has been given the job of looking after the team's stuffed toy mascot, Wally - for the entire tour.

Previous tours have thrown up numerous tales of kidnapped and stolen mascots finishing up in unlikely places, leaving its minder red-faced.

Before the team left, baby-faced O'Connor was fully briefed on what to do and what to expect.

For the media, he tried to put a positive spin on things.

He said his teammates told him that minding Wally was a good way of breaking the ice with young ladies on tour.

"Apparently over in France the girls love it," said O'Connor, who will also be escorting Wally in Hong Kong, Italy, Wales and England.

Berrick Barnes, who looked after Wally during last year's World Cup in France, warned O'Connor to be ever vigilant.

"He pretty much said, 'hold onto it and don't let it out of your sight, or else it's gone'," O'Connor said.

"He (Barnes) said he got stitched up a few times and he had to go down and get keys to everyone's room and search them."

Meanwhile, the versatile O'Connor said Wallaby coach Robbie Deans regarded him primarily as a fullback.

"I've played games (at fullback) here and there, but not too much, I've played 10 or 12 most of my life," O'Connor said.

"Speaking to Robbie, he said he wants his fullbacks to provide a running option as a ball player."

Unlike the vast majority of the squad, O'Connor has already played in Hong Kong where he represented Australia in Sevens.

While Deans has suggested every member of the squad would get a run on the tour, O'Connor said he wasn't expecting too much and would be "stoked" with any game time.

He said he just wants to learn from his team mates ...and take care of Wally.

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