O’Connor expects Lions onslaught

Tue, 04 Jun 2013 18:17
Large james o connor ball Large jameso connorrebelstraining Large james o connor rebels v bru

Wallaby utility back James O’Connor expects to be targeted by the British and Irish Lions in the upcoming three-Test series.

Wallaby utility back James O’Connor expects to be targeted by the British and Irish Lions in the upcoming three-Test series.

Despite having little Test experience at flyhalf, O’Connor looks set to marshal the Wallabies in the No.10 jersey.

The diminutive 22-year-old impressed in the pivotal position on the Wallabies’ end-of-year tour last season and expects to have a proverbial bullseye on his chest in the opening Test in Brisbane on June 22.  

"When you do put that 10 jersey on - if I do get the opportunity - you are always targeted there. It's the closest channel off the scrum," O'Connor told lionsrugby.com.

"It's no different to some of the big Kiwi boys, or even some of the guys we've got running around Australia.

"But they [the Lions] will be bringing that intensity and they are class players when you look at [Jamie] Roberts, [Brian] O'Driscoll and [Manu] Tuilagi."

The versatile O'Connor said he is comfortable playing at flyhalf, especially alongside star scrumhalf Will Genia. However, many experts question whether he is the right man for the job.

Wallaby great Mark Ella has warned that playing O'Connor at flyhalf could put the rest of the backline under pressure.

"The toughest road against a team like the Lions will be traffic through the midfield and if O'Connor does traumatise the Lions' defence then he will be worth his weight in gold," Ella wrote in his Australian newspaper column.

"If he tries too hard to live up to the lofty expectations on him, he can also sink the Wallabies by overplaying his hand. His lack of experience guiding the Wallabies around the field should be a concern.

"If O'Connor is going to lead the charge against the Lions then he will obviously need to play much flatter to square the attack, taking a shorter and quicker pass from his halfback Will Genia.

"His centres, whomever they may be, will have to be on their toes because the last thing O'Connor will want to do is throw a pass to his inside centre who is standing too deep and running cross-field.

"Getting the No 10 to be aggressive in taking on the defensive line to commit to making the tackle is easier said than done and it can't be done in isolation. The five-eighth and numbers 10, 12 and 13 must move in unison and not hang back in order to create indecision from their opponents."

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