O'Connor to test his new Rebels position with Wallabies
James Mortimer 19 Nov 2011 Getty Images
Berrick Barnes is likely to play at ten for the Wallabies, although O’Connor did play at first receiver for the Western Force earlier in the season.
Barnes, who suffered a series of concussions this season, will get a run on start and if he does play to his abilities, will set up an intriguing clash with incumbent Cooper next year for starting honours.
However O’Connor’s influence at 12 will be watched, considering that after he signed with the Rebels he stated his desire to the Sydney Morning Herald that he wanted to move closer to the action.
'That was one of the main reasons I wanted to move down to Melbourne,' O'Connor said.
'I wanted to move to that front line and get some experience there, and I see a good fit with Kurtley (Beale) at 15 and with Danny (Cipriani) there at 10.'
The Wallabies golden boy said that he wanted to stamp his mark in the team, saying that sparking offensive plays is part and parcel of the current setup.
'Any Australian team always plays an attacking style of rugby,' O'Connor said.
'I want to get into that front line, ball-playing a little bit more and a few more touches. The last couple of days I've been in the mix in those positions. Hand-on-ball time, the amount of time you get with the ball and the time you get to decision-make.
'I guess when you're in the front line you make most of the decisions, and that's what I want to be doing. Ball-playing as well, but ball-running and taking a few more hit-ups.'
O’Connor was looking forward to linking up with Cipriani, and he dismissed thoughts that an attacking Rebels backline might not be so efficient with their defensive duties.
'I'm pretty tight with Danny and he's another one of those players that can make things happen and he's looking forward to fronting up in defence, from every conversation we've had,' he said.
'There's going to be no easy gain line from us, you're going to have a lot of line speed though.
Beale said that despite the linking of three recognised ‘off-field attention gatherers’ in himself, O’Connor and Cipriani, said they were heading to Melbourne for plenty of hard work.
'I think we've all got this expectation of ourselves and what we bring to each other and also to our teammates, so we don't want to let anyone down and let anyone think that we're only in it for just the fun side of things,' he said.
He played down reports that Cipriani was a magnet for trouble.
'He does have a (reputation), I guess playing in England he's dated a few and obviously he's very popular, he's awesome talent and the paparazzi just got on him from there.
'Seeing Danny, he's looking in great shape and he's getting the ship set really well down there with the boys in the pre-season, and he's just really pumped to start next year, he's really switched on and that's the exciting thing.
'A lot of people may have their judgments but that's the way it is and I'm sure he'll turn a few heads next year.'
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