Force coach Mitchell flags O'Connor - Sports News - Fanatics - the world's biggest events

Force coach Mitchell flags O'Connor

By Justin Chadwick 06/02/2010 11:59:16 AM Comments (0)

Western Force coach John Mitchell has flagged the possibility of playing star back James O'Connor at five-eighth this Super 14 campaign after former Springbok Andre Pretorius suffered a season-ending hamstring injury.

Pretorius' one-year stint as the Force's international marquee signing was cruelly ended before it even really begun when the 31-year-old ripped his hamstring off the bone at training on Wednesday.

While Mitchell is yet to decide who will replace Pretorius in the No.10 jersey, the coach threw up plenty of options, with O'Connor among the names put forward.

O'Connor started his career at inside centre for the Force but in more recent times has blossomed at fullback in the Wallabies' set-up.

While it was always thought O'Connor would eventually take over as the Force's No.1 five-eighth, the 19-year-old may be forced to take on the responsibility sooner than expected following Pretorius' misfortune and Matt Giteau's departure.

"We've had good versatility in our group," Mitchell said when asked how the team would replace Pretorius.

"If you look at the mix (at five-eighth) there was Andre, Sammy Harris, Mark Bartholomeusz, James O'Connor, you've also got Stefano Hunt.

"So we've got a number of permutations there within the group and that's always been the way we've built it."

One-Test Wallaby Bartholomeusz impressed at No.10 in the Force's 31-12 trial win over the Reds on Friday night to show he is a viable option for the role.

Pretorius has already signed a multi-year deal to play in Japan after the season concludes, meaning he will never play a Super 14 game for the Force.

"We were really gutted for him," Mitchell said.

"It's really hard for a player to experience what he's going through. He's taking it pretty hard but we've got to move on.

"There's going to be more hurdles as the competition moves on, it's just a pretty tough one we've got to get over right now."

Meanwhile, Reds coach Ewen McKenzie said his team's big loss to the Force was a mere hiccup ahead of next Saturday's season opener against NSW in Brisbane.

Queensland were never in the game after the Force raced out to a 20-0 lead inside 20 minutes.

"Both teams have one eye on next week so the analysis that went into this game was limited," McKenzie said.

"I think we learned today that if we kick the ball away and give away silly penalties it's hard work.

"There's a couple of lessons there but nothing mind shattering, it's pretty much the basics of the game that we didn't get right."

Reds five-eighth Quade Cooper put in a solid performance in his first match since being charged with burglary last year, setting up Queensland's first try of the match in the 29th minute with a surging run and perfectly-weighted grubber kick, which winger Rod Davies pounced on.

But it wasn't enough to inspire a comeback as the Force's dominant forward pack and clinical backline ensured the visitors endured a miserable night.

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