James O’Connor says he’d happily make the switch to fullback for the Wallabies for the first time in 11 years if that is what coach Dave Rennie wants during next month’s Test series against England.
The Wallabies arrived in camp on Thursday to begin preparations for a series beginning on July 2. Quade Cooper is back from Japan and will battle it out with O’Connor and Noah Lolesio for the No.10 jersey.
O’Connor was Australia’s first-choice No.10 at the start of the 2020 international season, but an injury-plagued few years saw the 31-year-old struggle to play consistent Test football.
Cooper helped the Wallabies to five wins on the trot last year before pulling out of the end-of-season spring tour.
While O’Connor is eager to wear the No.10 jersey, he was asked on Thursday whether a move to fullback is something he’d consider.
“If Dave 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 [number] ten and improving my game there.
James O’Connor has been battling injury ahead of the July Test window.Credit:Getty
“To be fair you don’t have too much communication in Super season. It’s eyes on the prize there. We’ll see what happens.”
O’Connor’s last Test outing at No.15 was against Russia in 2011. Against a tier one nation, O’Connor played fullback against Ireland in Brisbane in 2010.
Tom Banks is Rennie’s first-choice fullback for the series but he has hardly set the world on fire at Test level.
The other issue complicating the No.10 selection battle is that O’Connor hasn’t played a game of rugby since May 20 against Moana Pasifika.
O’Connor has been slowly working back from a hamstring injury and says he would be right to play this weekend if there was a game.
“I’m fully fit,” O’Connor said. “I’ve been in training camps for the last two weeks now. I was a smidgen off being able to play in that quarter-final against the Crusaders. Frustrating to miss the last couple but I’m back and fit and ready to go.
“It’s high competition [against Cooper]. Each of us play in our own unique way and we all have different strengths and weaknesses. It’s going to be a good battle.”
Meanwhile, Will Skelton says it “hurts” that he wasn’t picked in the 35-man squad to face England but understands Rennie’s rationale.
With an allowance of just three overseas-based players to choose from, Rennie has picked three backs in Cooper, Samu Kerevi and Marika Koroibete to return for national duties.
Skelton, speaking on the RugbyPass Offload podcast ahead of a Barbarians game against England this weekend, was asked about his Wallabies situation.
“It’s something I always look forward to,” Skelton said. “I obviously played in November and I haven’t had much contact after that. I think I spoke to Rens a week after we broke up and I haven’t had much contact.
“In my head, I had an inkling that they’d pick those Japanese boys. The season’s aligned with Super Rugby and the Japanese league and with us having such a long season, I know from the chats that we had in November they were almost not going to pick us.
“It hurts not to be selected but that’s life and it’s nothing you can control.”
Watch every match of the July Test Series on the Home of Rugby, Stan Sport. Kicks off Saturday 2 July with Wallabies v England, New Zealand v Ireland, South Africa v Wales and Argentina v Scotland. All streaming ad-free, live and on demand only on Stan Sport.
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