Saturday 16 December 2017

O’Connor likely to fill Cooper’s boots for Australia’s tour of Britain

AUSTRALIA rugby coach Robbie Deans has indicated that James O'Connor will be given the chance to fill Quade Cooper's place at fly-half on the forthcoming tour of Britain.

Deans today named a 26-man squad for the matches against Barbarians and Wales, with several players absent because of injury. Cooper - recovering from knee surgery - is one of them.

And O'Connor, 21, appears to be the man most likely to inherit chief playmaker duties.

Deans said: "It's very likely he (O'Connor) will get the opportunity to step up and accept some of the greater responsibility that comes with directing the game.

"He is 21 now and starting to grow into his body. As he gets older he will be more able to cope with the rigours of the frontline.

"He has expressed (a desire) that over time it's an area he'd like to play. Given our circumstance, it's possible you might see him there."

The Wallabies, beaten in the semi-finals of the Rugby World Cup by New Zealand, will face the Barbarians at Twickenham on November 26 before tackling Wales in Cardiff a week later.

Deans has no doubt Cooper, who is not expected back until midway through next year's Super 15 season, can return to the top.

He explained: "I spoke to Quade immediately after the surgery. The surgeon was happy with the operation and Quade was positive in terms of what he needed to do.

"The reality is starting to sink in. In the first instance you have a sense of catastrophe as a player, particularly a young player, but he's starting to get his head around it."

"It is part of the industry and he hasn't had too many setbacks to that end. When he looks around he will see a lot of players that have and a lot of players who have pushed on and done some very good things. That's for him to do."

Deans will bring three uncapped players on the tour - Ben Tapuai, Ben Lucas and Dave Dennis - and believes the injection of new blood is vital for a team coming off a failed World Cup campaign.

He added: "Blokes exposed at this level for the first time bring an enthusiasm which is infectious. That enthusiasm will rub off, there's no doubt about that.

"We've already been through the emotional ride of (the) disappointment of not being able to beat New Zealand and we will have 26 excited blokes (on tour).

"We've got two tough fixtures and have picked the best team available. It's a great opportunity for this group."

Press Association

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