O'Connor to haunt Wales...again
NEWS: Wales has been a happy hunting ground for playmaker James O’Connor, who made his maiden appearance there in the Wallabies’ No.10 jersey a decade ago.
And he’s hoping that streak can continue this weekend as Australia attempt to avoid the embarrassment of losing all Tests on a Spring tour for the first time in the professional era.
O’Connor, then aged 21, steered the Wallabies to a 24-18 victory in his first Test starting as chief playmaker, coincidentally called in after injury to 2011 World Cup flyhalf Quade Cooper.
O’Connor’s only remaining teammate from that Test is prop James Slipper, who will captain the Wallabies in the absence of injured skipper Michael Hooper.
O’Connor has played at Cardiff’s Millennium Stadium – now known as Principality – three times for three Wallabies victories, with the 2011 appearance his most recent.
“It was all attack we just we went all out and that was a great experience for me,” O’Connor recalled of the 2011 match.
“I really enjoy playing there. It’s an awesome atmosphere, they bring a lot of people into the city and there’s a huge buzz about it.”
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Australia have also enjoyed good fortune in Cardiff, with their 2018 loss snapping an eight-game win streak against the Welsh at venue for this weekend’s clash.
Now 31, O’Connor said the Wallabies needed to find a balance between replicating that full-throttle attack and making careless errors and a damaging penalty count.
“If you don’t have the correct discipline, and if your foundations aren’t strong, then you can’t win a Test match,” he said.
“Especially up here [in the northern hemisphere] the margins for error are so small – back in the southern hemisphere, it’s a lot quicker footy.
“There’s a lot more opportunities where you can pull the trigger and score tries but over here you only get a couple and if you’re not ready to take those, if you’re playing in the moment then you’re going to miss them.
O’Connor said he needed to do more to bring his backline into the game, and that he was too slow in their opening loss to Scotland.
“I felt I eased into that game and probably took too long to flatten the attack up,” he said.
“In the England game I felt I built on that, but we piggybacked them into the game and every time we did build we’d lose it.”
The veteran said that despite two tour losses there was a lot of positives for the Wallabies to take from 2021.
“There’s a heap of good things to take out of this year,” O’Connor said.
“It’s two losses and two that we will learn big lessons from.
“This week is all about just putting it together – finding that balance of how we play and also playing the conditions and then just finishing the tour on a high.
“We feel we’ve a had a good year and we’ve really built this year so we want to show the public you know what we can do.”