x Abu Dhabi, UAESaturday 22 July 2017

Utility man James O'Connor wants fly-half role against Lions for Australia

The Rebels player looks to capitalise on doubts over the futures of Kurtley Beale and Quade Cooper by claiming the number 10 shirt for himself this summer.

Australia's James O'Connor kicks a ball during a national team training session.
Australia's James O'Connor kicks a ball during a national team training session.

James O'Connor looks to capitalise on the question marks over the future of Kurtley Beale and Quade Cooper by claiming Australia's number 10 jersey as his own for the forthcoming series against the British and Irish Lions.

Beale is on an indefinite break from rugby, while Cooper was not picked by coach Robbie Deans for the 30-man training party ahead of this summer's tour by the northern hemisphere side.

And O'Connor, who played as fly-half for the Reels against Southern Kings on Saturday, insists he feels most comfortable in that position.

"I've played 10 in that ball-playing role since I started playing rugby, even back to my league days," he said.

"It's sort of second nature - it's where I feel most comfortable.

"The more I play 10 for the Rebels, the easier the transition is going to be to the Wallabies, if I'm selected there."

The utility man has played all across the back division for the Wallabies in his international career but has revealed coach Robbie Deans is now giving him more consideration for the playmaker's role.

"My conversation with Robbie is he likes me in that 10 position and also on the wing," he added.

"I feel very comfortable in both those positions.

"I've got to work my way into the team first - it's not a given. I've been out for a year and there are other guys who are playing some great footy as well, so there's a lot to be done and a lot of form to be hit first."

With doubt over Beale and Cooper's involvement this summer, it paves the way for someone else to take on responsibility against Warren Gatland's tourists, something O'Connor believes can only strengthen Australia's chances.

"The more we can push each other to get those starting positions to make the team better - it's going to be big trouble for the Lions," he said.

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