Wallabies mull O'Connor move
Sydney - James O'Connor's recent form has been so impressive that Wallabies officials are deliberating whether he should be moved from the wing and be brought closer to the action at inside-centre.
O'Connor is also in contention to be Quade Cooper's back-up as the Test No 10 when the Wallabies go into Tri Nations and World Cup mode from July. Although the Force have only won one match, O'Connor has been the most consistent player of the five Australian teams, excelling at flyhalf.
O'Connor has enthused Wallabies selectors with his aggressive attitude, eagerness to take the initiative and to test the opposition at every opportunity.
One of his best efforts was against the Stormers in Cape Town last weekend, where O'Connor provided resistance to an opposition who were right at the top of their game.
The Stormers won by 35 points, but the margin would have been more embarrassing if O'Connor was not on the field. He constantly hassled the Stormers, and provided the highlight of the game when he took on their front row and winger Bryan Habana, beating all to score a classic solo try.
Apart from bulking up, O'Connor has worked hard on his goalkicking, and is sitting third on the Super Rugby points-scoring list, with a tally of 80 from two tries, 22 penalty goals and two conversions.
However, it is not anticipated the Wallabies will play O'Connor at flyhalf, as they are happy with Cooper's form - especially as the Reds pivot has played with maturity this season, cleverly mixing up his game and kicking with greater authority.
But No 12 is looking like an attractive option for O'Connor, especially as it would involve him combining with Cooper or even Kurtley Beale in midfield.
O'Connor, with the Brumbies' Adam Ashley-Cooper, is rated as the most invaluable of Australian rugby assets, because of his ability to play in so many back-line positions.
O'Connor was originally considered a specialist fullback, and he could easily return to the Wallabies' No 15 jersey, but will find it difficult to secure that spot this season, especially after Beale made it his during the 2010 international season.
While O'Connor has held a Test wing spot for some time, there will be greater competition this season, with Drew Mitchell, Digby Ioane, Rod Davies and Lachie Turner all making claims.
As there is no prospect of O'Connor being demoted to the reserves bench, a prominent spot will have to be found for him somewhere - and the midfield could become the best option.
What will work in O'Connor's favour is that Wallabies coach Robbie Deans is a close ally. Deans has a good relationship with O'Connor, as shown during last year's end-of-season Wallabies northern hemisphere tour.
The pair re-emerged from the Wallabies dressing rooms 30 minutes after the Test win over Wales at Millennium Stadium and for about 15 minutes, Deans retrieved the ball while O'Connor practised his goalkicking.
In between shots, Deans would point out where O'Connor had to work on his approach and follow through.