O’Connor determined to reclaim starting spot

James O’Connor has vowed to win back his spot in the Australia side after being named on the bench for Sunday’s World Cup opener against Italy.

James O’Connor has vowed to win back his spot in the Australia side after being named on the bench for Sunday’s World Cup opener against Italy.

O’Connor missed last month’s Tri Nations-clinching 25-20 victory over New Zealand through suspension after going AWOL and failing to attend the official World Cup squad announcement.

Wallabies selectors resisted the temptation to rush the superstar straight back into the starting XV today, naming an unchanged side to face the Azzurri with O’Connor among three new faces on the bench.

And the talented 21-year-old faces a tough battle to unseat Adam Ashley-Cooper, who was a standout performer on the right wing against the Kiwis.

“No, not at all. I’m just glad to be back in the matchday squad and to be getting a shot at the Italians is going to be awesome,” O’Connor said when asked if he was disappointed not to be named in the run-on side.

“To be honest selection is out of my hands, it’s not up to me and all I can do is do my best on the field and so that’s where I’m going to put my hand up.

“I’ll definitely be wanting my starting spot back, but in terms of this (tournament) it’s all about the team and Italy’s the first challenge.

“Like I’ve been saying all along, it’s a 30-man effort ... if we want to bring this cup home it’s going to be 30 of us doing it so I’ll play my hardest and give my all for the team like I always do.

“It was such an awesome performance (in Brisbane) and I was stoked for the boys and they deserve to be playing.”

The Wallabies’ new super sub is unsure where and when his opportunity will come against the Azzurri, but O’Connor says he’s ready for anything.

“I can cover a few different positions so when I get and wherever I get on it’ll be a special moment,” he said.

“I’ve said all along I enjoy playing in the centres, even at full-back and wing, so when the opportunity comes, if Quadey (Quade Cooper) goes off I’m happy to put my hand up there and step into five-eighth.”

Cooper will assume the goalkicking duties on Sunday but O’Connor admits he’s also keen to reclaim that role after putting in extra work under the guidance of South African-based kicking mentor Bram van Straaten.

“I had a fair bit more time off than I usually would so I’ve been in close contact with Bram and doing a lot of extras,” he said.

Despite having already amassed 30 Test caps, O’Connor will still be required to chaperone team mascot Wally the Wallaby for the duration of the tournament as the youngest member of the touring party.

“I do have to look after him. It’s the fourth year in a row but it’s a little bit more special this time with the World Cup and everything so I think you guys will see him out and about a fair bit,” O’Connor said.

“I guess it’s going to be a pretty massive occasion this World Cup and I just can’t wait to get over there.”

The Australia team is: K Beale; A Ashley-Cooper, A Faingaa, P McCabe, D Ioane; Q Cooper, W Genia; S Kepu, S Moore, B Alexander, D Vickerman, J Horwill (capt), R Elsom, D Pocock, R Samo.

Replacements: T Polota-Nau, J Slipper, R Simmons, B McCalman, S Higginbotham, L Burgess, J O’Connor.

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