O'Connor's new focus an added Reds threat

Mon, 22/02/2021, 05:25 am
Murray Wenzel - AAP
by Murray Wenzel - AAP
James O'Connor was in the zone on Friday night. Photo: Brendan Hertel/QRU

James O'Connor wants to do more damage with his boot and it could have direct spin-offs for Suliasi Vunivalu as the former NRL winger eyes a belated Super Rugby AU debut for the Queensland Reds.

The two-time NRL premiership wide man missed the Reds' 41-7 defeat of the NSW Waratahs on Friday after he was stood down by the club following an altercation with a hotel security guard that saw him charged with common assault.

Pre-register for Stan Sport now to watch every minute of Super Rugby AU. The new add-on Sport package is available for just $10 a month with customers able to get a 30-day free trial for a limited time only.

Expected to find a spot in a stacked backline, or at least come off the bench, to face the Rebels at Suncorp Stadium, Vunivalu stands to benefit as O'Connor works another dimension into his game.

The Wallabies No.10 admitted he needed to improve his in-game kicking and is keen to better exploit the 22/50 or 50/22 kicking rule brought in last season that offers possession back to the team that can execute the kick.

"That's been a big development to get our team on the front foot in all areas," O'Connor said of his intent to kick.

"I broke through the fundamentals with (internationally renowned kicking coach) Dave Alred, but now it's about spotting space and identifying and putting the right kick in at the right time."

The 50/22 came off once against the Waratahs and led to a try while another came close, and two cross-field bombs to flying wingers ensured defenders had to be wary of balls being kicked in behind them.

With a Wallabies-laden backline and a ball-playing back row that enjoys space to run, O'Connor knows even the threat of a kick can be used to the Reds' advantage.

"That's the whole point of these new rules; to open the play up and create quicker footy," O'Connor said.

"It's what fans want to see and what we want to play, and teams know we want to throw the ball around, so if they do want to bring players to the front line we can look for corners, short kicks and space behind."

Vunivalu and O'Connor had already spent time together in Wallabies camp when the Melbourne Storm flyer was invited soon after his NRL grand final heroics.

He told media on his arrival at Ballymore a few months later that O'Connor had advised him to "stay on his hip", but the No.10 said it had not played out that way at all.

"He actually came up to me and said 'what do you need from me?'," O'Connor said.

"We had a coffee and a chat (when he arrived in Wallabies camp); he's very inquisitive, picks up detail quickly, which is great.

"I just said 'this is the basics of what I need' and if he can master that straight away our connection will build just like it was able to with Lipo (fellow Wallabies winger Filipo Daugunu last year)."

LIFE WITHOUT GORDON: Tahs down on troops

TEAM OF THE WEEK: Who impressed in week 1?

FRANCE COVID-19 OUTBREAK: Five players contract virus

Trevor Hosea is marching into Wallabies contention. Photo: Getty Images
Trevor Hosea re-signs with Melbourne Rebels, Rugby Australia
Reds coach Brad Thorn has defended the decision to change captains ahead of the Final. Photo: Getty Images
Thorn defends Queensland Reds captain call
Dave Rennie speaks after giving blood on the Gold Coast. Photo: Getty Images
"We're keen to get them back": Dave Rennie open to overseas Wallabies returning for World Cup
The Brumbies will be looking to win it for James Slipper after he was ruled out with injury. Photo: Getty Images
Brumbies ‘doing the job’ for Slipper after latest Finals heartbreak
Rugby.com.au Logo

The Rugby.com.au are a proud part of Rugby AU

© 2021 Australian Rugby. All rights reserved.