James O'Connor: Wallaby Number 10? - Green and Gold Rugby

James O’Connor: Wallaby Number 10?

James O’Connor: Wallaby Number 10?

I’ve been really impressed with James O’Connor playing number 10 for the Force so far this season.

I have no doubt that he’ll be in the starting team for the Wallabies come World Cup time — the only question for me is in which position? If Kurtley Beale stays fit he’ll be the Wallaby fullback, so JO’C will either be on one of the wings, where he played so well last year, or he may get a chance in closer. Also on the plus side, his goal-kicking seems to be getting better and better. In a knockout competition you need a reliable kicker, and JO’C has already shown that he can handle that sort of pressure.

Before the start of the Super Rugby season most people, and I’m one of them, expected Quade Cooper would be the automatic first-choice for Wallaby number 10. I think Robbie Deans prefers his fly-half to have an “X factor”, which I don’t think Berrick Barnes has, and I can’t see him giving Matt Giteau another chance in that position.  The combination of an “X factor” player at number 10 and Barnes at 12 would provide a nice balance.

I think JO’C has the “X factor”, and while Quade’s not playing poorly there are those issues with his defence. In short, I think JO’C  is emerging as a real challenger to Quade.

Watch the video for some examples of how JO’C played against the Blues last weekend.

[youtube width=”600″ height=”450″]http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=olP06BKGA9g[/youtube]

  • Tank

    I agree. Although I reckon JOC may already have overtaken Cooper.

    Seems to have the complete package at the moment – X factor, kicking, defence, passing etc.

    Has been said before but if Cooper picks up his defence a bit geez I would love to see Cooper 10 and JOC 12.

    • Pete

      QC 10, JOC 12, both on song = dream team in attack. If QC could defend (and there have been times when he’s not been too bad, just not in the last 12 months), that combo would do murder if the piggies front up. Our backs are the only lot who can beat the ABs without forward dominance, just parity, I think the most disturbing thing this season has been the smashing some of our packs have taken.

      My only concern with JOC in a playmaking role is he sometimes doesn’t pass, probably fully aware that he is an insanely strong runner, but perhaps being in a playmaking role, particularly 10, will make him look around a bit more rather than trying to be a finisher like when he was coming in to the line from 15 and bombing the odd opportunity.

      • fr3ak

        I strongly disagree, his passing game has been a revelation, I fully expected him to act like a centre at 10 but instead he is quick to distribute and makes fullback like breaks when given space. In fact I’ve never seen a more mature first up effort from a player “out of position” at 10, look at players like Cruden who were been “born to be fly-half” and see how long it took him to get any sort of rhythm to his game in super rugby.

        JOC doesn’t lack for confidence and that’s what you want from your 10, I see him as the future Wallaby 10, definitely in the run on team and should something happen to Quade he’d certainly be in the mix as replacement.

    • Graeme

      Its too bad we dont have a few easy tests before the world cup yo try out cpmbinatipns. One I would like to see experimented with is QC, BB, JOC in 10, 12, 13. This would have 3 playmakers in a row with no crashball runner, and would also be quite small in defence. But I also think it could be lethal combination if it worked.

  • INeedChocolate

    Would love for this to happen but my pessimistic side is saying Deans put some effort into QC so will he really just switch to J’OC in a WC year?

    He definitely has the composure to play 10 and I think his option-taking has improved. He’s always strong in contact, so when he does take it in, he’s usually still going forward which is a good thing, since he’d likely be pressured hard.

    • Kyle

      I think Quade Cooper will be the Wallabies first choice number 10 at the world cup, and james o’connor will stay on the wing, i would be great to see O’Connor in the number 10 shirt of Australia at some point in the future, he’s certainly capable, and is a better defender than Quade Cooper, but in attack Cooper’s got more of an unpredicability factor to him, and is capable of anything, and that can put the opposition under stress more when he’s got the ball, cause you’re not sure what he’s gonna do, Coooper can do great and smart things, yet can also do crazy things too

  • Who Needs Melon

    I’m not on the JOC at 10 banwagon just yet but another thing hugely on his favour is that JOC can really tackle too.

  • Kiap

    Agree. He’s better all round than QC, except perhaps only for Quade’s long pass. I also see JOC as being the best goal kicker in the Wallabies. At the business end of a RWC that player should be close to first chosen every time.

    With Barnes in the mix, Australia has got some good options at 10 and 12. AAC is also a damn fine player at 13. The only thing possibly lacking in the Oz backline is sheer size. Fruean and SBW will combine at 215 kg with change to spare for the ABs. Used to be that Stirling provided sterling service but he may lack too much speed now.

    In any case, O’Connor is the X factor player for Australia. There’s still a full season to go but he’ll have to be in the first-choice team somewhere. He is looking better and better at 10.

    • The Mayor of Perth

      I like you putting Barnes in the mix, would love to see JOC at 12 outside BB, QC on the bench and Gits in France.

      • Thomas

        I really don’t see that working!

    • rolandw

      I’m quite comfortable that if SBW runs at JOC or BB, they will put him down quick smart to stop the elusive offload of his. Size is overrated.I would rather BB defending then Stirling

      • Kiap

        Size tends to be dismissed by sides that don’t have it. Sure, players need to be good before mere size is considered (as the French found to their cost at the end of last year) but that’s not such a worry for NZ and I’m seeing plenty of upside.

        We have got limited games to go on, as far as SBW in top-level rugby is concerned. He had a slightly dusty first half with the hands against the Tahs but seems to have been unloading at will since then. Everyone has seen those familiar skills before he converted.

        How many opponents have shut down his offload over the course of a game? How do you put him down quickly without him popping up the ball? Do you try to go high, or low?

      • Patrick

        I wouldn’t rather anyone defending than Mortlock, after all he is the one who landed still the biggest hit on SBW!!

        I seriously don’t think he has missed a tackle all year.

        • The Goosh

          Hmm maybe you have forgotten the massive fend off Beale did to him in round one this season. Yes it happened.

  • Scarfman

    Austin – your analysis is spot on, as usual. But doesn’t it boggle the mind a bit that we have to applaud backs for taking the ball to the line and drawing their man? I was a pretty ordinary player in my day but I could do that without thinking.

    • Hawko

      Amazing that Super rep backs don’t all seem to be able to do it in their sleep.

  • Joe Mac

    I like the way JOC has been playing as well. If we were to play in the WC tomorrow I would chose him over QC without question. QC in his form of the past 18 months should consider joining our Australian Touch Football team where he would be the worlds best player.

    If QC can fix his defensive problems like Gilbert did, then he is back in at 10 in my books and JOC can play 12. Im just not sure how he will get the chance with Link hiding him every game…

  • spaceman

    It doesnt make sense to drop QC for JOC, we want to have all of our best strike players on the park.

    10 QC
    11 Ioane
    12 Gits/Barnes
    13 AAC
    14 JOC
    15 KB

    that would be our best best…. wow that is a great backline eh?

    • Lee Enfield

      Except for Giteau, he is shit, leave him out of the 22 all together.

      • Anthony

        No way is Giteau shit. He has messed up a few times, but what player hasn’t? Yes, Giteau and O’Connor are my favorite players. O’Connor is not perfect either. He tends to just make a run with the ball, and yes he has made some amazing plays, but he has made mistakes just like Giteau. Giteau is an amazing player, and it’s annoying that people don’t realize that. When both O’Connor and Giteau are good, they are REALLY good, however, they both have their days. But you can’t say Giteau is always shit, that isn’t fair.

        • Robson

          But when was the last time that Gits was really, really good. You might have to go back to 2009. O”Connor it seems was really, really good as recently as last weekend.

        • Anthony

          Robson, yes, O’Connor was good last week. Now, what if he messes up in his next game? Does that make him a terrible player? No. Gitaeu gets kicks that many players would miss. I would like to see some of you guys take the kicks that he takes. Do you remember that last Brumbies game? Who scored that try in the first three minutes? Oh, thats right, Giteau. Now, who converted that? Giteau. He isn’t a bad player.

        • Rocky Elboa

          Who got sent off five minutes later? that’s right gits.
          Who scored a lucky try? That’s right Gits.
          Who lead his team to a terrible defeat? That’s right Gits.
          Gits was a great player but he has not been at his best for a long time. I personally think Gits would be fourth pick at 10 for the Wallabies and third or fourth at 12. I don’t hate Gits and think he cops a lot of slack, but with so many rumours about his attitude you have to think where there is smoke there is fire.

        • Lee Enfield

          I am under no illusion that I can’t kick a goal for shit, but then again, I don’t get paid $600,000 a year plus match fees, third party deals and endorsements to be a teams number one goal kicker as well as a play maker.
          If crabbing across the field, closing down the outside space and missing kicks in front of goal are the qualties required of a player, then sure, pick Giteau, there is no one better, but if taking the ball to the line, drawing in defenders, creating space and going forward is what you want to do, then pick Cooper or JOC.
          Giteau is overrated, always has been and always will be, he was made to look better than he was by Gregan and Larkham.
          Last year the Wallaby backline looked its best when Giteau was not on the field. All of his defenders say he is a world class player and should be picked in the RWC side because cream always rises to the top, well so does diarrhoea.

        • Anthony

          Rocky Elboa, when Giteau was sent off, go watch that again. Do you see what he did wrong? Even the commentators were confused. A try is a try. You want to take that try back? The point is, he scored it. I can just as easily say that James O’Connors try was a lucky try. It wasn’t, they are in the right place at the right time. They know what they are doing. Are you talking about against Scotland? You can’t blame Giteau for defeats. A team needs to play as a TEAM. You can’t blame one person. If a team loses, that team needs to work it out, you can’t put the blame on one persons shoulders. And about the rumors on his attitude. Do you know him personally? Cause if you don’t, then you can’t say for sure that he actually has an attitude. And what does that have to do with him playing a game of rugby? I don’t think we should be criticizing him as a person, you want to criticize him as a player, fine. But you don’t know him as a person.
          I think that people are just looking at what he does wrong. He makes a few mistakes and then he is just labelled a terrible player. Well no player is going to be perfect. I am sure one day when James makes a mistake and messes up a whole game, everyone will hate him too.

    • Mart

      Room for Mitchell?
      He’s the best finisher in australia at the moment

  • rolandw

    No Mitchell?

    • Anthony

      Mitchell is a great player, definitely think he should be in there.

  • rolandw

    I think having QC at 10 and JOC at 12, with barnes on the bench to come on at inside centre with 20 minutes to go with JOC moving into 10. BB is our best defender, and with JOC and BB at our 10/12, we might be able to actually hold onto leads that QC builds in the first 60.

    Start with x-factor, finish with a solid defensive line and an older smarter head.

    But JOC needs to be on the whole time to take snaps at goal.

  • Logan

    Qc’s goal kicking aint half bad either these days

  • bones

    I think all you can do is give talented players a shot at the highest level and then step back and see how much effect they have and how settled they look under pressure. JOC to date has ticked every box each time he is given the chance. QC has done some fantastic things but not ticked every box.

    It wouldnt surprise me for Deans to play JOC at 10 with Barnes at 12, and then bring QC on at 10 or 12 for whichever of JOC or Barnes is playing the worst.

    But the real action has to take place in the forwards. Do we really have the forwards to win a WC? Only 6 months out from the Cup and we are not even sure who our starting 1 and 3 are.

    • Robson

      Right now the answer is – lamentably – no. But that is just on S15 form. If we bring the best together we might have. But then we are only one injury away from not having it.

    • rolandw

      I think Ben Robinson in form is a world class #1, its the #3 that gets me. In Ben A up to it? Is Slipper there yet? That brumbies tighthead has been scrummaging well and his loose work is quite effective.

      #3 and #13 are soo open right now. Let’s hope someone stands up over the next 4 months.

      • Muffy

        Slipper is easily there, he is the first pick pig for me.

        international props are now wise to Robinsons technique (getting under and across) and have largely negated it. But he is probably our best scrum half/ prop we have

        Hows this WC forward pack…

        1 Ben Robo
        2 Squeak
        3 Slipper
        4/5 Horwill sharp
        6 Rocky
        7 Bam
        8 Mcalman although Houston (on current form is making a case but we all know he is either all or Funk all)


        Ben A
        Fingers although don’t be surprised if James Hanson sneaks in to make a WB debut
        Ben Mowen / Rob Simmons

        Come to think of it, I am glad its not up to me… I am still a fan of Brown, Matt Hodge, Dean Mumm, Phil War (what is he good for) I just wish he would have a trot at hooker……

        • B-Rock

          Not much go-forward with that pack, the Fro and Palu need to be the first picked surely… McCalman and Houston over Palu is laughable

        • Alan

          all this talk i feel is a bit premature as the season still has some way to go and i suspect our ideal lineups will struggle to mirror the actual lineups with injuries occuring as often as they are at present

          but for forwards, dont forget Vickerman, the guy is all class and could be a valuable asset in the lineout if sharpie or rocky bites the dust

        • Muffy

          You are absolutly right, Fingers out and the Fro in.

          Have you been watching McCaman play??? he has acres of go-forward. more than ever.

          Cliffy still has to convince, he is currently low on form ATM, but its early days…

          ( I am a Queenslander after all:))

        • rolandw

          i think the wallabies should be daley, faingaa, slipper, humphries, horwill,higgers, beau robinson and houston
          res: hanson, holmes, simmons, liam gill, ed quirk

          want to know who i think the backs should be, or can you guess already?

  • Manuel

    JOC seems to have the same problem than most non-10’s that play 10: he has been taught all his life to support after the pass, so he gets involved in too many rucks. Three or four in that video only.

    • Robson

      That is true, but he sees to do it even when he is not playing 10.

    • fr3ak

      Yeah I don’t see it as a problem, he is quick enough to get back when really needed, inside centre is called “second 5/8th” for a reason and I’d prefer to see ball retention in the ruck rather than lose it just to be in position for a ball that never comes back.

  • Jimbo81

    those video examples have him attacking from depth with time and space. In tests, he won’t have time or space and I don;t think he has the ability to make the fast plays that Cooper can execute- ie – ball to the line and offload. Starting team, definitely, number 10 absolutely not!

  • VikingBrad

    JOC is looking good at 10.

    Think Quade is more in the Carlos Spencer mode, one of his heroes. Great when the forwards are going forwards but no plan B when things get hard. Don’t want QC throwing the intercept pass like Carlos did in RWC2003 Qtr final when things got tight.

    15. Beale
    14. Ioane/Turner
    13. AAC (if he picks up defense, Brumbies not good environment for hard work it seems)
    12. Barnes
    11. Mitchell
    10. JOC
    9. Genia (And Burgo looking good, actually passing well, amazing for a halfback!)

    QC might make 22 as would be great having him come on at 60m with fresh legs. Would split any defense apart.

    Gits doesn’t make 22

    • rolandw

      I really enjoyed the Gits not making the 22 part.

  • Garry

    Lachie Turner’s been picked at OC for the Tahs!!

    Following in the path of Morty from the wing.

    Watch this space?

    • The Mayor of Perth

      Good point. One reason Crossy went to the Tahs was to have a better chance of getting back in the Gold. Also watch how Cummo progresses at 13, especially in the games after this weekend v Stormers, Rebels and Tahs.

  • mark conley

    Either JOC or QC, not both together. I ‘think’ the JOC at 10, Barnes at 12 would be the go.

  • chequebalance

    Hmm I wonder what the flavor of the month will be in 6 months?…

  • B-Rock

    No one seems to mention JOCs lack of test experience @ 10 – yes he is extremely talented but is a RWC year the time to be shuffling the back line around? We had the best backline in the world last year, why change it now (barring injury of course)? Super Rugby is very different from tests let’s not get too excited with wholesale changes… I know it’s boring but why not stick with (replacement in brackets)
    9. Genia (burgess)
    10. QC (barnes)
    11. Mitchell (Turner)
    12. Barnes (JOC)
    13. AAC (Ioane)
    14. JOC (Turner)
    15. Beale (AAC/JOC)

  • François

    O’Connor had his best Super rugby season in 2009 imo, when he was playing 12 outside Giteau. Anyone who saw the WF play that year would tend to agree with that. Mind you, at that time, and with Carter injured, Giteau was considered the best 10 in the world and was giving O’Connor plenty of quality service.

    Besides, I think his current form at 10 should not dismiss QC’s abilities in that position… The best of two worlds would really be to slot the two of them in the 10 – 12 jerseys, with the possibility for them to switch around.

  • Nutta

    My 2cents (for what it’s worth)

    9. Gins
    10. BB
    12. Gits
    13. 2Dads
    Gits gets hooked the moment he crabs or at 60min. QC to 10 and BB to 12 at 60min. Also Gits covers Gins. Starting lineup has good D shape and BB at 10 won’t waste ball. QC in at 60min means he runs at tired defense and he only has to tackle for 20min (surely he can handle that).

    11/14. JOC & DI
    15. KB
    KB & JOC give added 10/12 cover whilst DI covers 13. Punchy on the bench

    But don’t listen to me. If I had my way my all-time WB backline would be:
    9. Steve “it wasn’t me” Finnane (great hands)
    10. Lightening Kearns (based on lineouts throws should give GREAT service)
    11. Topo (gotta be there somewhere but doesn’t understand the calls)
    12. Andy McT (speaks for itself)
    13. Link (great defender – takes up space well)
    14. Tony Daly (back where he came from)
    15. Stan Pileki (The Man was always composed and had time)
    Now THERE’s a backline that wouldn’t waste ball…

  • MC

    Nutta – usually you have a point. And I like your 1st bit about the current WB’s. But did you smoke something before the last bit? WTF?

    • Nutta

      Sorry. That was shite wasn’t it? I clearly should have Tom Lawton in there instead of Andy McT. Seriously though, I shouldn’t comment on backs at all let alone after coming home from St Paddys day drinks before going to bed…

  • Damo

    I’m not sure we have enough time to experiment. But I wouldn’t mind seeing this lineup;

    9. Giteau
    10 Quade
    11 Mitchell
    12 JOC
    13 Two dads
    14 Ioane
    15 Beale

    • rolandw

      Damo have you lost your mind? The giteau half back experiment has been tried twice, and failed miserably twice. He will be the new orange peeler, and a damn fine one at that.

      We have two world class half backs.

      Agree with the rest of your team though. Be interesting to see Turner at 13 for a few games. Two dad’s has lost it abit

  • chasmac

    What Would our biggest available backline look like? I’m guessing;
    9. Burgess
    10. Beale (out of position)
    11. Turner
    12. Mortlock (out of position)
    13. AAC
    14. Mitchell / Digby (same size)
    15. Shepherd

    And I’d like to know who the fastest are in each position if anyone cares to comment.

    • rolandw

      Na Sheehan is a monster of a halfback, and an agro little bastard. Remember them toying with the idea of scott higginbotham at outside centre. lets reignite that thought. SBW would have a tought night in the office if this was done.


Scott is one of our regular contributors from the old days of G&GR. He has experience coaching Premier Grade with two clubs in Brisbane.

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