Ultimate compliment for O'Connor - Sports News - Fanatics - the world's biggest events

Ultimate compliment for O'Connor

David Beniuk 05/11/2010 08:13:44 PM Comments (0)

Wallabies man of the moment James O'Connor has received the ultimate compliment from Wales opposite Shane Williams - he reminds the former world player of the year of himself.

O'Connor will mark the Welsh flyer in Saturday's (0130 Sunday AEDT) Test at Millennium Stadium, Williams the latest world rugby superstar to find himself in the sights of the recently converted Australian winger.

The 20-year-old gave another former player of the year, Bryan Habana, nightmares during the Wallabies' breakthrough Tri-Nations trip earlier this year.

He then famously scored the last-gasp try and booted the conversion to win the Hong Kong Test against the All Blacks, causing Joe Rokocoko plenty of headaches along the way.

O'Connor's battle with Williams is certain to light up the Cardiff Test match and the 33-year-old Welshman, who was voted the world's best in 2008, can see his younger self in the Western Force star.

"Obviously he's got his own style of play but I think probably in the way that he does go looking for work and ... and gets involved as much as he can ... so maybe a little bit," Williams said.

"He's got great footwork and he's one of these players who likes taking on defenders and you've got to admire him for that.

"He's certainly a player I've been keeping a close eye on over the last couple of months.

"He's taken to the position very well, he's become almost like an experienced player, you'd swear he's been playing there for a long time now."

Williams played the first of his 73 Tests in a decade-long career at the age of 22.

He says youngsters like O'Connor have older heads on their shoulders than he did when he first took the field against France in 2000.

"They're a lot more experienced than I was at 21, 22 and seem to be picking up the game a lot quicker than I did and I think O'Connor's one of them as well," he said.

"You've got to take your hat off to them. Fearless I suppose the word should be."

Rugby may be a religion in Wales, but Millennium Stadium is unlikely to have a capacity congregation this weekend as recession bites at the one-time coal mining centre.

Williams says the Welsh players, searching for just their fourth win over a southern hemisphere side in the professional era, understand the pain.

"We don't hold anything against the fans, we know how difficult it is out there," he said.

"We'll give the same commitment whether it's 5,000, 50,000 or 500,000."

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