Former rugby bad boy James O’Connor is set to start against the All Blacks in Perth on Saturday, giving him a chance to push his case for World Cup selection.
O’Connor is set to take a giant stride towards the tournament six years after starting in his last Test. The former Wallabies bad boy will get a chance to push his case to play in Japan later this year with a call-up in the centres.
O’Connor is set replace Tevita Kuridrani at outside centre, giving Australia another much-needed ball-player against the world champions.
Grand Slam-winning captain and ex-Wallabies selector Andrew Slack said O’Connor needed a chance to prove himself after only getting ten minutes off the bench in the Wallabies win over Argentina in Brisbane.
O’Connor had predominantly been playing at No.12 at his last UK club Sale and Slack said he needed to be in the squad, although he wasn’t sure what his best position was.
He said that O’Connor should even be a considered as an option at five-eighth, should Christian Lealiifano or Bernard Foley not rise to the occasion ahead of the World Cup.
“I certainly think O’Connor should play a role in the game,” Slack said.
“I don’t think they’d go for O’Connor at ten, although that’s what he was originally and should nothing show up with Christian or Bernard playing particularly well in the few games we’ve got, he may be a [good option] at ten.”
It’s a case of now or never for the 29-year-old, who only signed a new Rugby Australia and Queensland Reds deal last month.
A veteran of 44 Tests, O’Connor said at the time he was a changed man after a history littered with bad behaviour, including alcohol and drug incidents.
O’Connor became the youngest ever Super Rugby debutant at age 17 and the second youngest Wallaby in Australian rugby history at age 18, but his promising career went off track.
His last Test was in 2013 and he last played in Australia in 2015, when he spent a season with the Reds, before being released to shift his career to the UK.