O'Connor happy to wing it
July 21, 2010
James O'Connor is happy with his move to the wing © Getty Images
James O'Connor might not be overly familiar with the wing position but the Wallabies speedster is relishing the chance to get more ball in hand when Australia take on South Africa in Brisbane on Saturday.
O'Connor has been moved to the wing with Adam Ashley-Cooper switching to fullback for the Suncorp Stadium clash. Australia's first involvement in this year's Tri-Nations is shaping to be a fast-paced, free-flowing affair that could suit the 20-year-old's attacking abilities.
Both sides have spoken about the fast nature of the Suncorp surface, and O'Connor is hoping the conditions help make his transition to the wing enjoyable for him and the supporters too.
O'Connor told reporters: "I'm getting my experience (on the wing) from training, but we've had a fair bit of competitiveness and game role-play so I'm pretty comfortable now. You work a lot more with the ball in hand, looking for those inside balls.
"The way the game's going now there's a high work rate for wingers whereas at No.15 it's more defensively a high work rate, so that could benefit my game. You'll see me all over the field, that's for sure.
"We've been practising our counter-attacking all week and I think you'll enjoy what you see on Saturday."
If conditions suit O'Connor, then so too will they favour his opposite number, Bryan Habana. But the Western Force star isn't fazed by the task of marking one of South Africa's most potent attacking weapons.
"I flourish under extra responsibility and I believe it will benefit my game. Habana is pretty physical and has some speed, but I've had a few one-on-ones with him already, and so far so good," he said.
More threatening could be South Africa's likely aerial bombardment of O'Connor's wing. Coach Robbie Deans has hinted Ashley-Cooper's safety under the high ball contributed to his move to fullback, but O'Connor will no doubt still be tested as will fellow wing Drew Mitchell. At least he'll be ready.
O'Connor said: "I'm expecting a few high bombs, Zane Kirchner loves the high up-and-under and Ruan Pienaar has a pretty nice box kick too."