The Australian teenage sensation James O'Connor has yet to decide where he will play his Super rugby next season, despite speculation he has already committed to the Western Force. O'Connor, 18, who made his Super 14 debut with the Force in 2008, has been widely tipped to ignore offers from the Brumbies and the Queensland Reds and accept a lucrative deal to stay in the West.
The precocious talent, who continues to amaze after making his Test debut on last year's end-of-season tour, insists he is still weighing up his options but expects to make a decision as early as next week. "Not as of yet, it's still on its way, it'll be soon but," he said when asked if he is any closer to announcing his immediate playing future. "We've got a week off after the French game [on Saturday] so I think [I'll decide] then."
While he is the one holding all the cards at the negotiating table, O'Connor faces a nervous wait of his own with Australia coach Robbie Deans to name his team to face France today. O'Connor stole the show against Italy in Canberra last week, only to be trumped by Adam Ashley- Cooper, his main rival for the number 15 jersey, in Melbourne. And the youngster admits he has no idea which way the coach is leaning.
"I'd like to think I'm playing some pretty good rugby but then again Adam is such a complete player and he's playing some great rugby as he showed when he got man of the match last weekend," he said. "It's a good environment to be in. We're competing and we're putting pressure on each other so we're thriving. "Adam's a great bloke. He definitely helps me out, even before games he's giving me that little bit of advice.
" He's got that experience over me so he's a big help." However, the confident youngster declared himself ready for the toughest assignment of his fledgling career if selected. "It definitely will be up there as the toughest game if I get the opportunity, which fingers crossed I'm hoping [I will]," he said. "But I'll take it with both hands, the French are playing some great rugby and I think it's going to be a very physical encounter."
Meanwhile, lock James Horwill says the importance of Saturday's clash is not lost on any of his teammates. "This is our last hit-out as a squad and then a new squad gets named [for the Tri-Nations] after this, so hopefully everyone will be there still ... we've got to make sure that we put our best foot forward leading into the bigger games ahead," he said. * PA Sport