O'Connor will bounce back: Force coach - Sports News - Fanatics - the world's biggest events

O'Connor will bounce back: Force coach

By Justin Chadwick 04/04/2011 08:20:07 PM Comments (0)

Western Force coach Richard Graham has backed James O'Connor to rediscover his kicking mojo in Saturday night's home clash with the Waratahs, labelling the 20-year-old's horror night with the boot last week as a one off.

O'Connor's usually-reliable radar was off target in the 26-25 loss to the Rebels last Saturday, the star Wallaby missing several easy shots on goal in what proved costly in the end result.

Graham confirmed O'Connor would retain the kicking duties this weekend against the Waratahs even if five-eighth Willie Ripia proved his fitness and came in at No.10.

"Is there any need to change James? I don't think so given he was kicking at 79 per cent before that game on the weekend," Graham said on Monday.

"A guy coming back in (Ripia) having been out now for six or seven weeks doesn't need the extra responsibility (of the kicking duties) when you've got someone else doing a good job.

"(O'Connor's performance against the Rebels) is a one-off.

"Everyone throughout the course of their sporting career has one of those days.

"James has been absolutely outstanding this year and I wouldn't think that (a bad night with the boot) will happen again."

The Force sit last in the Australian conference and 13th overall after posting just one win and a draw from their six games.

But Graham refused to give up on the team's finals hopes just yet.

"If I'd given up hope, I'd be surfing in Bali this weekend," he said.

"I think the great thing about sport, particularly this conference system, is we get to play 10 more games and we get to play all the Australian conferences twice.

"So we definitely haven't given up hope."

Flanker Matt Hodgson is expected to be out of action for about a month with a shoulder injury after being dropped from a line-out against the Rebels.

The injury was another blow to the struggling Force, who are still several weeks away from regaining Wallabies flanker David Pocock (knee).

Graham said 24-year-old rookie Jono Jenkins was the front runner to replace Hodgson for the Waratahs match.

"(When) you lose two Wallabies, I don't think you've ever got the ability to keep replacing them," Graham said.

The Waratahs have also been hit by injury, with skipper Phil Waugh (calf) and five-eighth Berrick Barnes (concussion) ruled out of action this weekend.

The Force will don a new one-off jumper against the Waratahs, with the jerseys to be auctioned off via the club's website to help raise money for Pocock's EightyTwenty Vision charity, which raises support for poverty-hit communities.

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