Wallaby playmaker open to positional switch for England series
SPOTLIGHT: Star playmaker James O’Connor says he’s open to playing fullback during next month’s Test series against England amid hot competition to wear the No.10 jersey.
The Wallabies went into camp on Thursday in Queensland to start preparations for the three-Test campaign, which gets underway in Perth on July 2.
O’Connor is vying with Quade Cooper, who has returned from Japan, and young gun Noah Lolesio to start at flyhalf with the role shifting between the trio due to injury and form last year.
“It’s high competition … each of us play in our own unique way and we all have different strengths and weaknesses,” O’Connor said on Thursday.
“It’s going to be a good battle so we’ll see what happens in these next few weeks in training camp and see where the cards lie.”
The 31-year-old Queenslander hasn’t played fullback at Test level since 2011, but said he’d make the switch if Wallabies coach Dave Rennie wanted him there.
Brumbies ace Tom Banks is the likely first-choice fullback although has failed to fully nail down the Test role.
“If Dave [Rennie] wanted me to play 15, I’d put my hand up for sure,” O’Connor said.
“We spoke a little about it last year, nothing this year.
“This year has just been about playing 10 and improving my game there.”
O’Connor has been sidelined since late May when he suffered a hamstring injury but declared himself a certainty for the much-anticipated series.
“I’m fully fit,” O’Connor said.
“I was a smidgen off being able to play in that quarterfinal against the Crusaders.
“It was frustrating to miss the last couple [of games] but I’m back and fit and ready to go.
“I’ve been hitting all the benchmarks and it’s time to put it out there on the field.”
Wherever he lines up, he’s determined to deliver a better showing than on the Wallabies’ UK November where he started at flyhalf in Australia’s losses to Scotland, Wales and England.
“It wasn’t my best tour – I just found it a little bit difficult to get into the game,” O’Connor said.
“Whether that was just the way we were playing as a group, [and] also, just myself, I was probably a step too deep.
“I was probably preparing for conditions that didn’t actually come as it was actually pretty quick over there and we were thinking it was going to be a bit more wet-weather footy.
“Leading into Test matches, it is a step up, so you want to be prepared and physically so you can put your stamp on the game.
“I definitely feel like I’m in that place now.”