O'Connor named at fullback for Wallabies - Sports News - Fanatics - the world's biggest events

O'Connor named at fullback for Wallabies

09/06/2009 06:13:43 PM Comments (0)

Wallabies coach Robbie Deans has challenged teen sensation James O'Connor to earn his stripes in Saturday night's clash with Italy at Canberra Stadium.

Confirming a changing of the guard in Australian rugby, Deans on Tuesday named 18-year-old O'Connor at fullback while overlooking Wallabies mainstays Lote Tuqiri and Phil Waugh for the season-opening Test.

Adam Ashley-Cooper, one of the standouts in Australia's 55-7 thumping of the Barbarians in Sydney last Saturday, has been relegated to the bench to pave the way for O'Connor's much-hyped maiden Test start.

The Western Force wunderkind made his Test debut off the bench against Italy last November before starting at fullback against the Barbarians later on that northern spring tour, and then also coming on as a reserve on Saturday.

Deans admitted it was an exciting time for Australian rugby to have young stars like O'Connor emerging but implored the teenager to repay the faith.

"It's fantastic; he's clearly a talent. But you need more than that from this point on, so that will be his challenge," Deans said.

"He's now going into a context that's distinct from anything he's played to date.

"There'll be less time and space, so his decision making will become the priority from this point on because you can't play the game as an individual.

"But he's already shown that he sees things and he makes things happen and he's a pretty good decision maker.

"Even when he makes a poor decision, he's often able to get himself out of danger anyway."

Even still, Deans conceded he probably wouldn't have picked O'Connor had it been a Bledisloe Cup decider, or match of similar magnitude, and said it was now up to the rookie backline ace to prove he was Test class.

"It's been well-documented, I guess, that we kept him back from the under-20s (world championships) in order to give him a development opportunity," Deans said.

"He got his first chance off the bench and did well with that and now he's got an opportunity to start the game for the first time in a Test match.

"So that will be a good workout for him, so we'll see what happens.

"Obviously it's no reflection on Adam's game. He had an outstanding game (against the Barbarians). He had probably one of the best games in recent times that I've seen him have in the Wallaby jersey.

"So that's great. That's what we need. We need 30 blokes not only wanting to play, but preparing to play well and hopefully when they do get the opportunity, then doing well."

O'Connor admitted he was surprised to receive the call-up, but looking forward to the added responsibility of starting.

"I'll have to try and play a bit more field position, but I'm going to try to play my natural game. That's what I got picked for," he said.

But there was again no place for Tuqiri, with Deans preferring Drew Mitchell and Lachie Turner to the 67-Test winger after both starred against the Baa Baas.

Waugh, a veteran of 77 Tests, also has a fight on his hands regaining his place in the squad after losing his spot on the bench as George Smith's back-up openside flanker to Western Force young gun David Pocock.

In the only change other than O'Connor's inclusion, Dean Mumm has replaced injured blindside flanker Matt Hodgson, with Rocky Elsom still sidelined with a bruised knee.

Australia: James O'Connor, Lachie Turner, Stirling Mortlock (capt), Berrick Barnes, Drew Mitchell, Matt Giteau, Luke Burgess, Richard Brown, George Smith, Dean Mumm, Nathan Sharpe, James Horwill, Al Baxter, Stephen Moore, Benn Robinson. Res: Tatafu Polota-Nau, Ben Alexander, Peter Kimlin, David Pocock, Josh Valentine, Quade Cooper, Adam Ashley-Cooper.

Brought to you by AAP AAP © 2024 AAP

0 Comments about this article

Post a comment about this article

Please sign in to leave a comment.
Becoming a member is free and easy, sign up here.

« All sports news