O'Connor a bolter as Wallabies fullback - Sports News - Fanatics - the world's biggest events

O'Connor a bolter as Wallabies fullback

By Jim Morton 15/05/2009 04:27:15 PM Comments (0)

Teenage sensation James O'Connor has emerged as the surprise solution to the Wallabies' fullback dilemma.

Western Force utility back O'Connor looms as Australia's backline bolter for the start of the domestic Test season as a host of No.15 candidates have struggled to make their mark during the Super 14.

The 18-year-old Gold Coast product has played the bulk of the 2009 season at inside centre for the Force but made his Test debut at fullback last November in Italy and possesses the wide skill set required in the position.

A former fullback himself, Wallabies coach Robbie Deans has a tough choice at No.15 with no contender appearing to have the full package for the role.

Complicating matters has been the likes of injury-plagued Cameron Shepherd and Adam Ashley-Cooper, who held the fullback position last year, playing most of the Super 14 on the wing.

Force flyer Drew Mitchell and Brumbies custodian Mark Gerrard have shown some good form but also have question marks over their defence while Waratah Lachie Turner is viewed more as a winger.

While small-statured at 84kg, O'Connor has proven himself a reliable defender and is also strong in contact, highlighted by breaking through several tacklers to score against the Stormers in Cape Town last weekend.

O'Connor has impressed outside Matt Giteau in the centres but also starred in two starts at fullback midway through this year's competition.

He has been chosen in the Australian squad to play at the world Under-20 championship in Japan next month but could stay in Australia instead if he warrants a Test berth.

Deans denied he was frustrated that no contender appeared to have the complete game like Chris Latham before he moved to England last year.

"I don't look at it that way," Deans said.

"It would be great to have someone make it their own but it's not as though we're without choice."

Queensland coach Phil Mooney said he wouldn't be surprised to see O'Connor picked to start as Mitchell and Ashley-Cooper had failed to nail down the position.

"I think James would have his nose in front," Mooney said on Friday.

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