O'Connor apologises after no-show
August 21, 2011
O'Connor admits he has let himself down after missing the official unveiling of the 30-man squad © Getty Images
Wallabies back James O'Connor has apologised after he missed the Australia World Cup squad announcement.
The star utility back was asked by the Australian Rugby Union to explain his absence after missing the official photo call and media opportunity last Thursday. And the 21-year-old was reportedly seen in one or two hotels around Sydney the night before the announcement, but he has declined to comment on his whereabouts.
The back will be a key part of Robbie Deans' World Cup squad but a repentant O'Connor is aware that he has let his team-mates down. "I just want to express my regret as this is such an important event for the Wallabies and I would like to apologise to all the fans and my teammates," O'Connor said. "I let myself down, I let the fans down and I guess all the Wallabies down and the ARU as well.
"It's a massive event (World Cup squad naming) and one that only comes around every four years."
According to reports in the Sydney Morning Herald, O'Connor will be punished by the ARU and dropped for next weekend's clash with the All Blacks in Brisbane. And O'Connor admits he will take any verdict that is handed down as a result of his misdemeanour.
"The process is out of my hands. It's with the ARU and whatever the outcome is, I'm willing to cop it," O'Connor added. "All I know is I will do all I can for the team.
"We've got a massive game coming up this Saturday and a chance to win the Tri-Nations before the World Cup, so all my efforts (will go) into training hard and doing what I can for the team. I want to be there for my team-mates, as they would be there for me."
Meanwhile, Adam Ashley-Cooper is happy to slot in anywhere in the Wallabies backline as he continues to bounce back from an underwhelming Super 15 season with the under-achieving Brumbies. Although a fixture in midfield with fellow Brumby Pat McCabe, specialist centre Rob Horne's selection for the World Cup despite another injury-ravaged campaign with the Waratahs has placed the 27-year-old on notice.
"Selection is never guaranteed so it's a very important game for me leading into the World Cup," he said. "Rob Horne is an excellent outside centre so he's certainly going to push the boundaries there. There's a few guys back from injury so it creates a competitive environment in the backline."
Horne will play for the Australian Barbarians against Canada at the Gold Coast on Friday night alongside World Cup-bound five-eighth Berrick Barnes and wing Drew Mitchell, two other experienced backs on the comeback trail from injury. Ashley-Cooper expected the All Blacks to revert to their first-choice midfield pairing of Ma'a Nonu and Conrad Smith after the duo were rested from last weekend's 5-18 loss to South Africa in Port Elizabeth.
Nonu and Smith nullified the Brumbies pairing in Auckland on August 6 during the All Blacks' 30-14 Bledisloe Cup-retaining triumph and Ashley-Cooper was anticipating expecting another testing ordeal if he remains at centre.
"They're some of the best in the world at work there," he said. "They work so well together. They know each other's game inside out, they have that cohesion. We have to be defensively on our game. It's a tough challenge for us."
© ESPN Sports Media Ltd.
The All Blacks' form is not a peaking issue, but Hansen must threaten to wield his axe, to demand improvement, Craig Dowd writes
"It has been the World Cup that smashed down the gender barriers of the sport." Tom Hamilton looks back at a remarkable tournament
A selection of the best pictures from England's historic World Cup triumph in Paris as they beat Canada 21-9
The latest Week in Pictures takes in the Women's World Cup, the opening round of the Top 14 and the Rugby Championship