Brumbies backline too full for O'Connor
April 9, 2013
James O'Connor: rumoured to be speaking with the Brumbies and a return to Western Force could be an option © Getty Images
ACT Brumbies have ruled out a play for Melbourne Rebels star James O'Connor, as the Super Rugby franchise ponders how to make best use of their burgeoning backline stocks.
As revealed on ESPNscrum last week, the 22-year-old is rumoured to be unhappy at the Rebels and was looking to start anew with the Brumbies or move back to Western Force.
But Brumbies backs coach Stephen Larkham scotched suggestions on Monday that the conference-leading franchise was in the market for the Wallabies utility back.
"There's no truth in that at all. We're not talking to him," Larkham said.
While O'Connor has had his share of off-field issues over the years, Larkham said that didn't factor into the thinking about not pursuing him. Instead he said it was simply a case of the Brumbies having enough firepower in key backline positions.
That strength has created some selection posers for coach Jake White who must decide how to make best use of the likes of Matt Toomua, Christian Lealiifano, Pat McCabe and Jesse Mogg in the one backline.
Toomua and Lealiifano have built a first class combination at flyhalf and inside centre this season, winning five of the six games they've played alongside each other.
However the return of Wallaby inside centre McCabe from a six month neck injury in their 28-all draw with the Kings on Friday gave Toomua a week off and pushed Lealiifano to No.10.
Toomua will likely return to flyhalf this Friday against the Highlanders, who have a All Black-stacked backline with the likes of Colin Slade, Ma'a Nonu, Hosea Gear and Kade Poki capable of regularly breaking the line.
And given McCabe's reputation as a hard man in defence, it means that either Lealiifano or Tevita Kuridrani would likely be rested. Still, Larkham wasn't giving anything away on the selection front on Monday.
"We're going to see how they train, how the combinations work and make that decision later in the week," Larkham said. "The are plenty of options for Patty, he's played every position in the backline bar 10."
Toomua said it would be a challenge in Dunedin, regardless of who took to the field for the Brumbies.
"Threats all over the park," Toomua said. "(Nonu) is obviously a big guy but he throws a lot of cut out passes, has got good footwork and has all the skill sets. You just have to defend as a unit. If you rush out on him you make it a one-on-one which is not what you want with him."