O'Connor won't be distracted: Sharpe - Sports News - Fanatics - the world's biggest events

O'Connor won't be distracted: Sharpe

Ben Horne And Ed Logue 16/04/2011 03:48:14 PM Comments (0)

Western Force skipper Nathan Sharpe is confident speculation about James O'Connor's future will not distract the Wallabies utility.

The desperately need O'Connor to put his contract distractions aside if they're to turn around the worst record in Australian Super Rugby against the Brumbies in Canberra on Sunday.

The 20-year-old has been tipped to follow NSW Waratah Kurtley Beale to the Melbourne Rebels next season, in what would be a crushing blow to the Force.

Melbourne deny a deal has been finalised but it's been reported O'Connor could announce his defection by Monday.

Sharpe says the Force are desperate to keep O'Connor, but aren't worried about his head-space for Sunday's match.

"It is more about James O'Connor, that is up for him to handle ... for us, it has not been a huge worry," Sharpe said at the team's captain's run on Saturday.

"I don't think it affects the way you play because you are prepared to play well on the weekend.

"Contract negotiations during a season are nothing new, they have been going around for years and years."

Focus will also be key for Brumbies' five-eighth Matt Giteau, who will play his first match against the Force, since rejoining the ACT-club in 2010.

Giteau, who had to deal with his own contract issues earlier in the year when he announced his move to French rugby next season, said O'Connor shouldn't have any trouble keeping his mind on the job on Sunday.

"The best thing about it is you have got football to distract yourself from it," said Giteau, who admits coming up against his former team-mates will give the the clash a more "personal" feel.

"While you have got your down time, you maybe are thinking about things like that (contracts).

"When you're playing football, you don't think about that.

"I'm sure it won't faze him or change his game."

As it stands, the Westerners are anchored to last place in the Australian conference, and head to the nation's capital with a massive hoodoo to overcome if they're to get their season back on track.

The Force have lost their past six matches against Australian sides.

Force coach Richard Graham hopes to spark up the team's attack by linking Willie Ripia and O'Connor at No.10 and 12.

The Brumbies are also yet to beat an Australian team this season.

They hope the first day match in Canberra since 2004 can inspire them to leapfrog the Rebels into third spot in the domestic conference, so they might begin to offer some challenge to runaway Aussie leaders Queensland and NSW.

Coach Tony Rea says shutting down O'Connor was key.

"He's got good ability, he threatens every time he carries it," Rea said.

"He's got a good eye on the game, you can't give him opportunities."

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