Switch James O’Connor to halfback
James O’Connor made an interesting comment yesterday, predicting Rebel team-mate Nick Phipps would excel on Saturday as injured Will Genia’s replacement against the Pumas.
Genia’s ruptured cruciate sees the skipper off the park for six months, by far the most devastating team-wise among the 30 injuries suffered by the Wallabies and franchises this year.
But Phipps isn’t the answer.
He’s a “double pumper” deliverer, and a bit slow off the mark. His side-kick Brett Sheehan all froth and bubble, his bark worse than his bite.
No, it’s Genia and daylight.
Unless James O’Connor is the new Wallaby halfback for the rest of the year.
Before the brickbats are airborne, think about it.
O’Connor is a very gifted footballer. He can play any position in the backline, so why not No 9?
He thrives on being right in the thick of the action, he reads the game well, has an accurate pass, and can tackle.
What more do you want from your Wallaby halfback?
The positional switch also gives coach Robbie Deans the chance to have all his best available players on the paddock from the kick-off.
O’Connor is due back in a fortnight after 15 weeks rehab recovering from serious liver and hamstring injuries, so Phipps has to play against the Pumas anyway.
But for the brutal South Africa-Argentina final leg of the Rugby Championship, O’Connor will be there.
Barring more injuries, heaven forbid, O’Connor, Quade Cooper, Berrick Barnes, Pat McCabe, Adam Ashley-Cooper, Anthony Fainga’a, Mike Harris, Digby Ioane, Dom Shipperley, and Kurtley Beale will all be on tour – and 10 doesn’t go into seven.
The biggest problem is what to do with Berrick Barnes. His goal-kicking is superb, making him a must selection, but his kicking in general play makes him an automatic benchman at best.
With Cooper entrenched at 10, and Barnes at 12, what does Deans do with McCabe, a far better 12?
Push Barnes out to 13, then what to do with Ashley-Cooper, the Wallabies most consistent back, especially under the high ball?
Push him out to the wing to replace Shipperley, who did nothing wrong on debut last week and deserves to retain his place?
Lots of questions but not too many answers.
It all starts with James O’Connor as halfback. Dramatic times demand dramatic decisions.
But in my book, there’s nothing dramatic about switching O’Connor. It’s common sense and very positive.
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