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Former Aussie Star Seeking International Return

One of Australia’s most controversial players has his eyes on a return to international rugby with the Wallabies

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(Photo by Bryn Lennon/Getty Images)

Former Wallabies back James O’Connor could be in line for a recall to the national side and a possible place at the Rugby World Cup in Japan later this year.

A report that featured in The Australian claims that Rugby Australia are lining up a bid to bring O’Connor back to Super Rugby for the end of the 2020 season and beyond.

If they manage to tie him down to such a contract the 28-year-old would then become eligible for selection in the Wallabies team.

It is believed that although head coach Michael Cheika is yet to speak to the 44-cap Aussie, but new director of rugby Scott Johnson has begun making moves that would see O’Connor return to Australia.

O’Connor currently plays for English Premiership outfit Sale Sharks and has been there since 2017, with his contract set to expire at the end of next season.

He moved to Manchester following scandals which saw him removed from an airport for a drunken incident and being arrested in Paris along with former All Black Ali Williams under the suspicion of attempting to buy cocaine in early 2017.

However, despite all of this O’Connor has played on and appears to have turned a corner which has caught Johnson’s eye.

Following a trip to Iceland last year O’Connor made clear his intentions to play for the Wallabies once more and promised he is not the man he previously was.

“I now know who I was but more importantly, I now see who I must become. It is time for me to share my truth. I have a deep desire to play for the Wallabies again. I have learnt from my mistakes and I am now ready. Ready to bleed green and gold. Ready to bleed for my brothers. Ready to bleed for the people. I will be back playing in October and I will have my eye firmly on the World Cup. I will not let myself or anyone down again. Time to shine!” he said on Instagram last September.

O’Connor played for the Queensland Reds before has final appearance in a golden jersey, a 14-13 win against Argentina in 2013. Since then he has represented London Irish, Toulon and Sale.

However, with so many players set to depart Australian shores over the coming months this may be the perfect time for O’Connor to resurrect his Wallabies career.


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Fans flock back to see the Boks in action

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South Africa Rugby - Image Credit Asics

The Springboks came close to a claiming a fifth Castle Lager Rugby Championship title this season, and although there was disappointment in the end, the men in green and gold still performed very well, with a number of Boks dominating the individual statistical analysis of the competition, while South African rugby supporters made the most of the opportunity to return to stadiums.

Due to the COVID-pandemic, the Boks last played in front of fans in South Africa in 2019, and this year just under 300,000 supporters streamed through the gates at the six Tests in South Africa.

For the three Tests against Wales (in Pretoria, Bloemfontein and Cape Town), and the three Castle Lager Rugby Championship encounters on home soil (in Nelspruit, Johannesburg and Durban), 297,298 supporters – or a superb 98.91% of full capacity at the six stadiums – saw the Boks in action in South Africa.

Jacques Nienaber’s team finished the Castle Lager Rugby Championship with four wins from their six matches, their most since 2014 and 2013, when they also finished second behind New Zealand with four wins.

South Africa beat Argentina twice (38-21 and 36-20 for a nett points’ difference of +33), won one against Australia – their first away win in the competition over the Wallabies since 2013 – and lost one Down Under (24-8 and 17-25 for a nett points’ difference of +8), and ended equal with New Zealand on one win and one defeat (26-10 and 23-35 for a nett points’ difference of +4).

Zoning in on individual performances in the last two months of international rugby, Malcolm Marx’s influence in the Castle Lager Rugby Championship was clear for all to see, with the Springbok hooker dominating in a number of key areas.

Marx scored two tries – the same as his team-mates Damian De Allende, Makazole Mapimpi, Kurt-Lee Arendse and Kwagga Smith – which placed them joint-third on the list of top try scorers, behind All Blacks hooker Samisoni Taukei’aho with five, as well as flankers Juan Martin Gonzalez of Argentina (4) and Fraser McReight of Australia (3).

But Marx also dominated on the ground, where he topped the list of breakdown turnovers won, with seven. Second on the list was Springbok captain Siya Kolisi with six, followed by Pumas captain Julian Montoya (five).

The All Blacks duo of Ardie Savea and Sam Whitelock, and Argentina’s Pablo Matera, were all on four, while Kwagga Smith and Steven Kitshoff won three each.

Lood de Jager made the most tackles of any Springbok with 62 (he placed fourth overall, behind the Pumas trio of Marcos Kremer (79), Montoya (66) and Gonzalez (66), while Marx and Kolisi came in at joint-ninth with 54 tackles each.

The Boks’ strongest ball carriers were Jasper Wiese (51 carries for 307m won), De Allende (48 carries for 333m) and Marx (40 carries for 222m).

Four players were tied at the top of the list for average metres gained per carry, namely SA’s Mapimpi, Lukhanyo Am, Canan Moodie and New Zealand’s Caleb Clarke, all with an average of 13m, with Clarke’s 540m the most metres gained by any player in 2022, while Mapimpi’s seven clean breaks were the most this season.

The Boks’ starting locks ruled in the air, with De Jager’s 26 lineouts won topping the list, and Etzebeth coming in second with 25.

The top points’ scorers during the competition were Argentina’s Emiliano Boffelli and New Zealand’s Richie Mo’unga, both of whom scored 71 points in their six games, with Bok flyhalf Handre Pollard coming in at third with 32 points in three games.

Content & Images from – South Africa Rugby


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Barrett relishes opportunity in 12 jersey

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It didn’t take long after Saturday’s 40-14 Lipovitan-D Rugby Championship win over Australia for new second five-eighths Jordie Barrett to feel the effects of his changed role.

While he played nearly three-quarters of the earlier Test against Australia in the position, it was a full-fledged effort on Saturday. He remarked that he wouldn’t have to wake up in the morning to feel the effects of the different, and more physically challenging, role at second five-eighths.

 

He was already feeling the effects.

 

“It’s different. I felt like I couldn’t get out of fourth gear, particularly with accelerations, decelerations, and more collisions.

 

“That’s just the nature of being in the midfield. I still love playing 15 [fullback], and I love playing 12 [second five-eighths]. I just enjoy an opportunity to play for the All Blacks.”

 

Barrett was able to give something back by causing his markers to feel his strength with some charging runs at their line.

 

“Rugby hasn’t changed, and if you can get some gain-line off set-piece and nullify it on the other side of the ball, you go a long way toward winning a match.

 

“They’ve got some outstanding carriers, Valentini, Pete Samu and some good outside backs and midfield players with some feet.”

 

He said he prepared for the traffic that came to his area and concentrated on that in his preparation.

“They have some big ball carriers particularly off set-piece and if they can get some ascendancy and gain-line it bleeds out into the rest of their game so I knew that if we knocked it on the head there that we could bring their game to a bit of a halt so it was a big mover there tonight.”

 

“If we could stop them at the gain-line it helps the rest of our boys. Our forwards one to eight were outstanding tonight and it makes the backs jobs a lot easier.”

 

The All Blacks’ Championship-winning effort was driven by a desire to show their worth to home fans and the closeness of their first Test with Australia.

 

“We weren’t too proud of our last quarter last week, and it could have gone in a different direction, so we knew, coming back to New Zealand, and Eden Park, it’s a place where we hold a high account, and we wanted to put on a performance that our fans and New Zealand are proud of.

 

“Consistency is important, it’s what we strive for every day as All Blacks. The last few months haven’t been up to standard but I think we’re heading in the right direction now.”

 

The scrum and maul had allowed the All Blacks to piggyback their way up the field and then kick to gain 50 metres went a long way toward winning Test matches.

 

Barrett said his employing the spiral punt was something he had been working on, especially with the Adidas balls used in New Zealand. David Hill and Ian Foster had been encouraging him to use the kick, and he had been practising it a lot.

 

“If I have got time on the ball I feel like I can peel off an extra 10-15 metres so I was lucky to get a couple away.”

 

Content & Images from – New Zealand Rugby


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6 Nations

Emerging Ireland Matches To Be Streamed on IrishRugby.ie

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All three Emerging Ireland games in the Toyota Challenge will be streamed live on Irishrugby.ie.

The squad arrive in Bloemfontein today (Tuesday) and will train in Greys College tomorrow (Wednesday) ahead of their opening fixture against the Griquas on Friday 30th September.

Related News

The game against the Griquas kicks off at 12.45 Irish time and will be available to view live on Irishrugby.ie.  The match day 23 to face the Griquas will be named on Thursday.

Emerging Ireland play the Pumas on Wednesday 5th October (KO 4.00pm) and the Cheetahs on Sunday 9th October (2.00pm)

Emerging Ireland Squad: Meet the Players – click here

Emerging Ireland Toyota Challenge Fixtures 2022

Windhoek Draught Griquas vs Emerging Ireland
Toyota Stadium, Bloemfontein, South Africa
Friday 30th September 2022, KO 12:45 (Irish time)

Airlink Pumas vs Emerging Ireland
Toyota Stadium, Bloemfontein, South Africa
Wednesday 5th October 2022, KO 16:00 (Irish time)

Toyota Cheetahs vs Emerging Ireland
Toyota Stadium, Bloemfontein, South Africa
Sunday 9th October 2022, KO 14:00 (Irish time)

Images & Content from Irish Rugby & Images © Inpho Photography


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