Deans: No risk with O'Connor
Sportal.co.nz 09 Aug 2012 Getty Images
O'Connor is still recovering from a serious hamstring injury suffered during the Super Rugby season and was not named in a 30-man Wallabies squad on Tuesday.
The 22-year-old will not be considered for this month's crucial clashes against the All Blacks in Sydney and Auckland, however Deans confirmed the star back will play a part in the tournament.
At the earliest, O'Connor will be available for the Wallabies' third match against South Africa in Perth on August 8, however Deans will take a cautious approach with the talented youngster.
"James is rehabbing very well, he's under the care of a hamstring specialist who's got more of an AFL background based in Melbourne," Deans said.
"He's working very hard, he's making good progress but we will not promote him before he's (ready), particularly with the potential for recurrent injuries.
"And a bloke like James, the way he plays the game and his physical capabilities, a recurrent hamstring injury would not be a good scene for him at this stage, so we've got to make sure we take care of his long-term future.
"But he's going well, if you spoke to him he'd say he's good to go by the end of the month, but he won't be considered for the first two Tests.
Inside-centre Pat McCabe is also expected to return from a leg injury early next month, while back-rower Ben McCalman will train with the squad in Sydney this week and is close to a return.
The news is not so good on incumbent No.8 Wycliff Palu, who is expected to miss at least the first three matches of the tournament with nerve damage in his shoulder.
Meanwhile, Deans conceded Cooper will be desperate to prove he belongs at Test level after a disappointing 2011 Rugby World Cup campaign ended with a serious knee injury.
The cagey coach was coy when asked if he has settled on his starting No.10 for the first Test against the All Blacks.
However, incumbent Berrick Barnes appears to have the inside running, with Deans reluctant to rush Cooper back into the Test arena as he continues his recovery from knee surgery.
"We've got an idea in mind but as is always the case we'll communicate that with the playing group first," Deans said of the No.10 jersey.
"That (proving himself) will obviously be high on Quade's mind ... no doubt but we won't push him beyond his state of readiness.
"We've had a good couple of bursts with him and there was significant growth in him in the second camp ... he's working hard."
Deans is also confident Kurtley Beale's off-field issues stemming from an alleged assault of a nightclub bouncer in Brisbane will not be a distraction on Beale or the wider playing group.
Beale could face an ARU imposed suspension when the matter, which is in mediation, is resolved.
The Wallabies will finalise their 22-man squad to face the All Blacks in Sydney next Tuesday.
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