O’Connor’s Eden Park test for No. 10


Former Wallabies captain Andrew Slack is unsure who should wear No.10 against England but sees the Queensland Reds’ trip to an Australian rugby graveyard as an opportune moment for James O’Connor.

The Reds’ five-eighth will return from a knee injury to face the Blues on Saturday at Auckland’s Eden Park, where they haven’t won for 10 years and where the Wallabies have not enjoyed success since Slack was at the helm in 1986.

O’Connor was in fine form before injury saw him miss the opening three games against New Zealand opposition, with the exhausted Reds dropping from 7-1 to 7-4 as a result.

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“They’re probably a little short on vocals; it’s a hell of a thing (for rookie Lawson Creighton) to be dumped at No. 10 against the Kiwis,” Slack told AAP.

“When things didn’t work out in the middle of a game, we weren’t versatile enough to change some things.”

The Blues (10-1) remain tied for first with the Brumbies and boast a defensive line comprised of Finlay Christie, Beauden Barrett, Caleb Clarke, Roger Tuivasa-Sheck and Rieko Ioane who put up 71 points over the Melbourne Rebels last last week.

If O’Connor can navigate that threat, it would show Slack he’s the man to wear No.10 against England in July, ahead of the emergence of Japan-based Noah Lolesio and Quade Cooper.

“I don’t know (who should play at No.10 against England) is the short answer,” said Slack, former Wallabies manager and Reds manager.

“He (O’Connor) will definitely be in on it but I don’t know, it’s difficult and it’s an important question.

“Lolesio still deserved his place about a year ago, he has the goods, but he still has a bit of a way to go after a difficult introduction.

“The Reds need calm (to beat the Blues), need to make better decisions, hit a little better than us and we’ve lost a few more tackles in recent weeks.”

They will be without flankers Harry Wilson (concussion) and Fraser McReight (illness), while Taniela Tupou (calf) said on Friday he was unlikely to play for the Reds again this season.

But Test center Hunter Paisami will return and wingers Jordan Petaia and Suliasi Vunivalu will provide enough punch and options for in-form half-back Tate McDermott, who will appreciate O’Connor’s return.


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