Confident O’Connor

James O'Connor says he won't be lacking in confidence when he lines up in the Qantas Wallabies No10 shirt against the British & Irish Lions on Saturday. [more]

Confident O’Connor

James O’Connor says he won’t be lacking in confidence when he lines up in the Qantas Wallabies No10 shirt against the British & Irish Lions on Saturday.

The 22-year-old has won the vast majority of his 37 caps on the wing or at full back but has no worries about starting just his second Test at fly-half on Saturday.

O’Connor has long spoken of his desire to pull the strings for his country, a role he has enjoyed with the Melbourne Rebels this term and one he was potentially being lined up to carry out last season with the Wallabies before injury ruled him out of the entire international calendar.

Plenty of people have since suggested he may struggle in the playmaker’s role on the biggest stage of all but those accusations are water off a duck’s back as far as O’Connor is concerned.

“Yeah, very much so,” was O’Connor’s response when asked if he was looking forward to putting his critics in their place at the Suncorp Stadium in the first of three enthralling Test matches.

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“My background growing up (is that) I played 10 all through my rugby. I was injured last year so didn’t get that opportunity but my last game for the Wallabies was at 10. It was against Wales and the Lions do have quite a big Welsh component so we’re aware of the background there.

“I’m very confident and very pumped. It’s going to be a huge occasion and one I’m very much looking forward to, and I know the boys are as well. There’s a lot of guys around me who have helped my transition there and the game plan does suit us quite well.”

Those same critics who have spoken of O’Connor’s relative inexperience believe he could be in for a big shock in  Brisbane when Britain and Ireland’s elite go looking for a repeat of their first-Test success in the same city 12 years ago.

But while he admits he expects plenty of attention from Warren Gatland’s men, O’Connor says being targeted by the tourists would be nothing unusual and something he would actually relish.

“It’s not new for a five eighth. I’m not normally the biggest bloke on the field so I’ve been used to it all my life. I’m very much up for the opportunity and the occasion,” added O’Connor.

“I can’t explain how pumped I am, I just want to get out there. We’ve been watching them the last couple of weeks and it’s making everyone hungry.

“From what we’ve seen from the Lions so far, they have brought that physicality and they’ve definitely brought their A game. It’s a huge occasion and we’re looking forward to it – the shoulders are ready!”

O’Connor lines up alongside vice captain Will Genia at halfback, with debutant Christian Lealiifano picked outside him at inside centre and another newcomer Israel Folau starting on the right wing.

The Qantas Wallabies haven’t run with the exciting-looking backline in a Test match as Robbie Deans’ troops haven’t played since December but O’Connor is more than happy with the way things have been going in practice and he expects that form to transfer from the training pitch to the playing field this weekend.

“You can build combinations on the training pitch and I think we have done that. I’m very confident in how it’s all going and in how we’ve gelled as a team. We’ve had our previous camps all throughout the year so we’ve been building on our structures and on how we’re going to play – it hasn’t just been the last two weeks.

“I’m very much looking forward to the game and I’ve got some good support around me, there are guys in the team who control the game really well. I guess what we’ve done on the training pitch, if we can take that into the game, we’ll be playing some good footy.” 

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