O'Connor a B&I Lions target
O'Connor a B&I Lions targetSHARE
James O'Connor said he is expecting the British and Irish Lions to target him in only his second game as Wallaby flyhalf in the opening Test of the series this weekend.
The self-confident 22-year-old is lining up for his 38th international cap on Saturday but his only appearance at No.10 was his last Test appearance in a 24-18 win over Warren Gatland's Wales in 2011.
O'Connor missed all of last year's international season with injuries, firstly with a lacerated liver and then by a hamstring complaint.
The Rebel was preferred by Wallaby coach Robbie Deans for the crucial playmaking role ahead of Berrick Barnes, Kurtley Beale and Christian Lealiifano, while 38-capped flyhalf Quade Cooper was passed over entirely.
O'Connor gets the nod for the first of three Tests against Lions with the benefit of only one Super Rugby match in six weeks for his Rebels team.
Deceptively strong on his feet for his 88 kilogramme stature, he is anticipating the Lions to send the big forwards his way in attack, but he said he will be ready.
"That's where everyone attacks at the No.10 [flyhalf channel], he's not normally the biggest bloke on the field. I've been used to that all of my life," O'Connor said.
"I am very much up for this opportunity and the occasion. I can't express how pumped I am. I just want to get out there.
"We've been watching them for the past couple of weeks and it's just making everyone hungry. It's a huge occasion."
O'Connor said he is confident that he will do the job for the Wallabies outside inspirational scrumhalf Will Genia with Test debutant Lealiifano at inside centre.
"I've got some good support around me who can control the game very well. We've done well on the training pitch and we're going to take it into the game and play some good footy," he said.
"I'm very confident in how it's all going.
"I was injured last year, but previously my last game for the Wallabies was at ten and was against Wales and a big thing among the Lions is that they do have a big Welsh component there so we are quite aware of the background there."
O'Connor is also likely to entrusted with the goalkicking responsibility for the Wallabies as the Lions pin their hopes of fullback Leigh Halfpenny, who has been deadly accurate on tour with 22 goals from 23 attempts.
"Halfpenny has been pretty magical with the boot, so we want to limit his opportunities and make sure we take ours," O'Connor said.