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The New James O’Connor

Brisbane: Queensland’s new marquee man, James O’Connor, is refusing to give up on his World Cup dream ahead of a career-defining Super Rugby campaign with the Reds. The 24-year-old fronted
08 Jan 2015 11:12
The New James O’Connor

Brisbane: Queensland’s new marquee man, James O’Connor, is refusing to give up on his World Cup dream ahead of a career-defining Super Rugby campaign with the Reds.

The 24-year-old fronted the media for the first time as a Queensland player on Tuesday, days after arriving back in the country following his enforced European sojourn.

Stints with London Irish and Toulon appear to have done O’Connor a world of good after he was banished from Australian shores in late 2013 following a string of off-field indiscretions.

He now has one Super Rugby season, beginning with the Reds’ opening fixture against ACT on February 13, to convince Wallabies coach Michael Cheika, he is worthy of Test recall before the World Cup in England in September.

“You’d be lying if you’re a sportsman playing in your country and you didn’t want to play for your national team. It’s always the top goal to play for the Wallabies and I’d love to pull on that gold jersey right now if I could,” he said.

“I haven’t spoken to Cheik, I’ve had no communication with him at all. To be honest, I landed a couple of days ago and my sole focus is getting into the (Reds) team and playing rugby.

“The team’s got great energy and as a club they want to go places so I’m sure if everyone’s doing their role there will be a flow-on effect (of Wallabies selection) down the track. It’s an exciting time.”

O’Connor said his stint abroad had improved every facet of his game, with his new-found skills to be put to use on Queensland’s flank.

“There’s no beating around the bush that I made mistakes (before leaving Australia) and it took me probably six months when I went away to come to an understanding and take a step back.

“I met a lot of good people and I think it just brushed off on me.

“I’ve done a fair bit of work with Johnny Wilkinson on my kicking and the way he rubs off on you improves your entire game. Training with Toulon, just on the training pitch everyone pushes each other.

“Fitting into the (Reds) team and where I see my short-term and possibly moving into that long-term is on the wing. That’s one thing I do find from overseas, it’s sort of quickened that process up a little bit.

“Especially playing in France … I found it a lot more enjoyable out wide, getting into those wider channels, getting some one-on-ones. I think it could fit quite nicely with the players that we have in the team (with) some big centres, some quick guys and even some young boys that have come through the NRC competition.

“Being a Queensland boy growing up here, I always wore the Queensland jersey. Even when you go away from home in France or the UK, when Origin is on or there’s a rivalry between the Tahs and Queensland, you’ve got red blood.” T

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