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O’Connor trains at five-eighth for Wallabies

By Zolton, Zolton is a Roar Editor

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    James O’Connor is firming as Australia’s five-eighth for Saturday’s clash with the Barbarians at Twickenham after training in the position in west London on Tuesday.

    The 21-year-old held down the play-making position during the hour-long session in foggy conditions at Latymer Upper School in Hammersmith.

    It was the national side’s first hit-out since arriving on Sunday morning, the players going through their paces at the school that has educated the likes of actors Hugh Grant and Alan Rickman and chef Heston Blumenthal.

    Backrowers Matt Hodgson and Scott Higginbotham missed the session with illness but were both expected to be available for selection this weekend.

    Wallabies coach Robbie Deans is weighing up whether to select Berrick Barnes or O’Connor for the No.10 jersey because of Quade Cooper’s absence with a serious knee injury.

    Barnes was named man of the match for his performance, largely at No.10, in Australia’s 21-18 victory in the third-place playoff against Wales at the World Cup last month.

    O’Connor, 21, has been keen to move in off the wing and play a more central role in the Wallabies backline and a match against the Barbarians has less riding on it than most internationals.

    “He can ball play, he has shown that in Super Rugby (for the Western Force),” Australian halfback Will Genia said.

    “He really wants the opportunity and hopefully Robbie gives it to him.

    “We will how see how he goes.”

    The Wallabies have an enviable record against the Barbarians, having won eight of their 11 meetings.

    The invitational side has chalked up major southern hemisphere scalps in the past two years, defeating the All Blacks in 2009 and South Africa in 2010.

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    The Crowd Says (19)

    • November 23rd 2011 @ 8:02am
      Patonga said | November 23rd 2011 @ 8:02am | ! Report

      well lets hope he gets to stay there… games against the Barbarians are about entertaining the crowd.. good luck James you are my first choice at 5/8

    • November 23rd 2011 @ 9:32am
      The Other Reds Fan. said | November 23rd 2011 @ 9:32am | ! Report

      Can you please stop reminding us that Barnes was player of the match in the play off match as if it is something of significance. Barnes at 5/8th is a remedy for insomnia. When fit, Australia’s back line should be:

      9: Genia;
      10: Cooper;
      11. Ioane;
      12. O’Connor;
      13. Tapuai;
      14: Mitchell;
      15. Beale.

      • November 23rd 2011 @ 10:27am
        jameswm said | November 23rd 2011 @ 10:27am | ! Report

        Tapuai at 13, after half a season, and no experience there?

        Big call.

        He doesn’t play for the Reds, does he?

        • November 23rd 2011 @ 10:30am
          johnny-boy said | November 23rd 2011 @ 10:30am | ! Report

          I’d have Tapaui at 12 and O’Connor at 13

        • November 23rd 2011 @ 11:18am
          The Other Reds Fan. said | November 23rd 2011 @ 11:18am | ! Report

          They all either played or still play or regret not playing for Queensland. Tapuai is the future and no-one else stands out – AAC losing form and will get worse at Waratahs, Horne always injured and cannot show what he’s got playing for NSW, Anthony Faingia not up to it at that level, Mortlock too old. Who else is there?

          • November 23rd 2011 @ 11:30am
            Rugby Diehard said | November 23rd 2011 @ 11:30am | ! Report

            TORF – right behind you on all your comments.

          • November 23rd 2011 @ 1:23pm
            johnny-boy said | November 23rd 2011 @ 1:23pm | ! Report

            They either played or still play or regret not playing for Queensland …… now that is gold !

      • November 23rd 2011 @ 11:32am
        rl said | November 23rd 2011 @ 11:32am | ! Report

        Hmmm – if I had to choose between a good night’s sleep c/o Barnes, or a f*cking nightmare induced by Quade, I think I’ll pick the former! 🙂 I’m a fan of QC, but maybe you also need reminding that Barnes stepped up when Bernie broke down at the last RWC? Compare Barnes’ big match temperament to Quade’s. I’m not saying it’s a choice between one or the other, I think they complement each other fantastically. And JOC will soon get his chance closer to the ball because Khoder Nasser will take his client’s services to the highest bidder.

        Yeah, big call on the un-tested Taps, particuarly at the expense of 2 dads. And Drew Mitchell ain’t necessarily a walk-up start either. Great with ball in hand, but I’m still tossing up if he’s a turnstile or a speedbump. If Turner rediscovers his mojo, or Rocket Davies keeps progressing, I think Mitch will soon be contemplating the waves in France with Gits.

        • November 23rd 2011 @ 1:53pm
          The Other Reds Fan. said | November 23rd 2011 @ 1:53pm | ! Report

          rl, you must be a NSW selector if that’s who you’d pick as Barnes gave your fans plenty of the sleep you crave. It’s not a big call for a barbarians game, in fact that’s what they’re for. AAC isn’t as good anymore as we all like to think as we saw in the WC. Davies peaked at Super 15 level as we saw against Samoa and Turner never had a mojo – plenty of speed but no other skills. We went out in the quarters last WC when Barnes ‘stepped up’. Ewen would select Ben. Barnes on the bench. Four years to next WC so let’s experiment now.

          • November 23rd 2011 @ 5:36pm
            rl said | November 23rd 2011 @ 5:36pm | ! Report

            TORF, got my 2012 Reds membership paid up! I’d just like to think I’m not completely blinkered (although Barnes is a Qlder after all!) 🙂

            Again, I don’t think it has to come down to Quade v Barnes. I hark back to how our backline played 12 months ago in Paris, with 9 Genia, 10 Quade & 12 Barnes – I still think that works and works well.

            BUT, if it does come down to mano-e-mano, well the evidence speaks for itself – when the truly big moments arrive ‘boring’ Barnes mans up (see 2011 qtr final v Saffas, playoff v Wales) and ‘thrilling’ Quade craps his daks (see every RWC game 2011 but particularly v Ireland). And they were both playing behind the same forward (or should I say “backwards”) pack.

            Re experimenting – totally agree. Quade’s owner is gonna pull his leash (and that of his bro’ SBW) in another direction, so we may as well use this tour as a chance to try out a Barnes-O’Connor 10/12 combo (they’ll be 29 years and 25 years old respectively at the next RWC). I think Taps is a great player for the future, but he’s just too green at 13 to be going up against some of the world’s best – imagine the crushing effect on him if he gets found out (it is possibly the toughest defensive assignment on the park).

            And re the signifcance of Barnes’ MoM v Wales – I think if you watch the passion which our boys played with and celebrated at the final whistle in the Wales playoff (and, by contrast, the disappointment of Wales who were coming back), I think you’ll see it was significant to the blokes representing their respective countries in a test match. I wish I could claim to have one under my belt.

    • November 23rd 2011 @ 9:47am
      Justin said | November 23rd 2011 @ 9:47am | ! Report

      Just another bizzare choice from Deans. One minute he is only up to playing on the wing and the next he is up to playing in the most crucial tactical position on the field with a couple of training runs under his belt.

      Just play Barnes at 10 and JOC at 12, his natural position.

      • November 23rd 2011 @ 10:12am
        johnny-boy said | November 23rd 2011 @ 10:12am | ! Report

        Agreed Justin. Maybe he is protecting Barnes ? – I’m being very charitable here – its almost Xmas 🙂

      • November 23rd 2011 @ 11:30am
        Rugby Diehard said | November 23rd 2011 @ 11:30am | ! Report

        Justin – I agreee. I’m no Deans basher but I find that strange as we have far greater mid-field issues and need a long term solution at 12 and 13.

      • Roar Guru

        November 23rd 2011 @ 11:57am
        Hoy said | November 23rd 2011 @ 11:57am | ! Report

        I disagree with TORF’s first comment, in that Barnes winning MOM in the last game does mean something. It means he played well at 10 when he stepped into that role. I also agree with you here Justin, why now switch him for O’Connor. Why play O’Connor 10, when for so long you have been sprouting that he is not ready for 12?

        So one minute JOC can’t handle 12, and Barnes is ready made for 10 after a good game there. Then, they do another switch, and swap both around AGAIN!!!

        • November 23rd 2011 @ 5:33pm
          Big Steve said | November 23rd 2011 @ 5:33pm | ! Report

          Couldnt agree more hoy. there is room for a storng defending, stong kicking ball distributing player in the backlinem especially with Oconner, Digby, Beale, Mitchell.

          If deans plans to play him at 10 long term what does that say about cooper, if he plans to play him long term at 12 play him there now. Im worried the will turn him into another AAC.

    • November 23rd 2011 @ 12:34pm
      IronAwe said | November 23rd 2011 @ 12:34pm | ! Report

      Tapuai is a better 12 than O’Conner. At least going on S15 form. I also think whilst Barnes is level headed and strong in defence, he kicks too much. In the few games O’Conner had at 10 for the Force he did well. Well enough to give him a shot and some experience there at test level, and it’s just a Barbarians game. If O’Conner comes good at 10, with Taps at 12, our only issue is 13. And it’s a big one. As I have mentioned earlier, hopefully someone puts their hand up for the position during next years super season.

    • November 23rd 2011 @ 3:33pm
      formeropenside said | November 23rd 2011 @ 3:33pm | ! Report

      The weakness Barnes has is a lack of running game: unless he is 10m out you can give him a gap and still have time to cut him down from behind. For some reason Barnes does not like stretching out when he runs – and probably is not that quick anyway – so he’s not a running threat at all, just a good kicker from hand. His passing is good, but not top shelf.

      Of course, thats all you need sometimes, especially in wet weather, but Barnes is not a dangerous player in the sense that Cooper, Beale, or JOC all are.

      • November 23rd 2011 @ 6:15pm
        rl said | November 23rd 2011 @ 6:15pm | ! Report

        I think Barnes is to Cooper (and JOC and Beale) what Lynagh was to Ella (and Papworth & Campo). Lynagh was never considered “brilliant” or “electrifying”, but he was a very, very good player. Surely there’s room for a cool head beside those freakish (but possibly inconsistent) talents?

    • November 23rd 2011 @ 9:06pm
      bc said | November 23rd 2011 @ 9:06pm | ! Report

      Is any broadcasting the barbarians game on free to air?

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