Genia backs newly mature O'Connor to shine for Wallabies

By Sports Desk July 23, 2019

James O'Connor has put his party-boy lifestyle behind him as he seeks to reignite his Australia career.

O'Connor is in contention for his first Wallabies cap in six years when Argentina visit Brisbane in the Rugby Championship on Saturday.

The 29-year-old utility back last featured against the same opponents in 2013, before his contract was ripped up amid reports of being intoxicated and abusive towards staff at Perth Airport.

That added to a lengthy rap sheet and stalled O'Connor on 44 Test caps but his form for Sale Sharks paved the way for a return to his homeland with the Queensland Reds last week, making him available for Australia once more.

"Tuesday nights, James was always out and about doing stuff because Wednesday we have off," scrum-half Will Genia told reporters when discussing O'Connor's new mature approach.

"Tuesday night in the last three or four weeks that we've had, he's in his room stretching, doing what it takes in terms of recovery.

"He understands that this is a huge opportunity for him."

Genia believes the example of Nic White, who started the opening Rugby Championship defeat to South Africa having spent the past two years with Exeter Chiefs, shows O'Connor's reintroduction can be a success.

"You saw Whitey come back and play very well. Hopefully it can be a similar story with James because I think he was on 44 Tests and he was so young when he left," added Genia, who will retire from Wallabies duty after the World Cup.

"We all know how good he is and hopefully, the fact he's in a better space mentally, he can be an even better player this time around."

Related items

  • Rugby World Cup 2019: England handed double boost ahead of All Blacks semi-final Rugby World Cup 2019: England handed double boost ahead of All Blacks semi-final

    England expect Jonny May and Jack Nowell to be fit for their Rugby World Cup semi-final against New Zealand, according to assistant coach Neal Hatley.

    May scored two tries in England's dominant 40-16 victory over Australia on Saturday, helping Eddie Jones' side set up a last-four tie with the All Blacks, who thrashed Ireland.

    However, England had cause for concern over May when the wing suffered a hamstring injury, while Nowell has also been dealing with a similar problem.

    But Hatley has revealed both players are expected to be available for selection for Saturday's contest in Yokohama.

    "It's fantastic where we are, all 31 being available for selection at the end of the week," said Hatley in a news conference.

    "Jonny's bouncing around this morning. He has a small twinge and we'll assess where he is a little bit later today.

    "He's in really good spirits, moving well, and we expect Jack to be fit for selection as well."

    England last met reigning world champions New Zealand at Twickenham in November 2018, with the All Blacks edging out a 16-15 victory. Hatley, though, insists neither side should read too much into that previous meeting.

    "I think the goal for us is to get better every day. I think we've improved, but they've improved as well. I don't think we can take a lot from what happened in Autumn," he added.

    "You know, they were missing a few, we were missing a few, and I think both sides have improved since then, it's a whole different situation.

    "We've got certain things that we'll l want to do in that first 15, 20 minutes and we need to focus on what we do right, then hopefully we'll replicate the same start."

    Jones, meanwhile, lauded the current New Zealand side as the "greatest team" of all time - and not just in rugby union, either.

    "We are playing the greatest team there has ever been in sport," he told reporters. "If you look at their record, I don't think there's a team that comes close to them for sustainability.

    "Name me another team in the world that plays at the absolute top level that wins 90 per cent of their games.

    "Now, talent doesn't matter. When you get to this stage of the tournament, it's about how strong the team is. The reason I took this job is because I saw a team that could be great and that was the challenge and they are starting to believe it."

  • Rugby World Cup 2019: World Rugby to investigate referee Peyper Rugby World Cup 2019: World Rugby to investigate referee Peyper

    World Rugby has opened an investigation after referee Jaco Peyper appeared to mock Sebastien Vahaamahina in a photo with Wales fans.

    Peyper, taking charge of his 50th Test, sent Vahaamahina off in Wales' dramatic Rugby World Cup triumph over Les Bleus on Sunday, with the lock dismissed for elbowing Aaron Wainwright.

    Though head coaches Jacques Brunel and Warren Gatland backed Peyper's decision, the South African official is now at the centre of an investigation after he posed for a photo with a group of Wales supporters.

    In the picture, which was circulated on social media, Peyper has his elbow raised into a fan's chin.

    France Rugby Federation vice-president Serge Simon took to his official Twitter account to demand an explanation.

    He posted: "This photo if it is true is shocking and explanations will be necessary."

    World Rugby confirmed they are looking into the matter.

    "World Rugby is aware of a picture on social media of referee Jaco Peyper with a group of Wales fans taken after last night's [Sunday's] quarter-final between Wales and France in Oita," the governing body said.

    "It would be inappropriate to comment further while we are establishing the facts."

  • Lyon's unbeaten start halted at Clermont Lyon's unbeaten start halted at Clermont

    Lyon's unbeaten start to the Top 14 season came to a halt as Jake McIntyre's boot helped Clermont Auvergne to a 24-15 victory on Sunday.

    The visitors, who played over half an hour with 14 men, had won each of their opening seven matches of the campaign prior to their trip to a wet Marcel-Michelin Stadium.

    McIntyre was key for an organised Clermont outfit, with the Australian fly-half nailing eight penalties in a contest devoid of tries. 

    Jonathan Wisniewski struck five three-pointers of his own for Lyon, but Liam Gill – who received a yellow card in the first half – was sent off after committing another sin-binning offence for diving off his feet at a ruck and the away side were unable to find a route back into the game.

© 2018 SportsMaxTV All Rights Reserved.