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Wallaby O'Connor eyes early injury return

Fri, 29/04/2022, 5:59 am
Melissa Woods - AAP
by Melissa Woods - AAP
Reds flyhalf James O'Connor, scrumhalf Kalani Thomas and coach Brad Thorn share memories from last year's final at Suncorp Stadium.

Injured Wallabies playmaker James O'Connor hopes to be playing in mid-May, setting him up for Australia's blockbuster three-Test series against England.

After missing the last round of Super Rugby Pacific, O'Connor says his knee injury is progressing ahead of schedule - welcome news for Wallabies coach Dave Rennie ahead of the July clashes with Eddie Jones' men.  

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The 31-year-old is targeting a return against the Blues in Auckland on May 14, which would give him three games ahead of the finals series.

"The knee's good - it's tracking along nicely and I jumped out of the brace yesterday to do some tracking and drilling," O'Connor said at a Rugby Australia ticket launch in Brisbane on Friday.

"I don't want to speak too early but we're possibly ahead of schedule.

"I'd love to be a part of the Blues (game) but otherwise Moana (Pasifika) the week after."

The Reds missed the cool head of veteran O'Connor last round, giving up a 17-0 lead to lose to the Hurricanes in their first hit-out against a Kiwi side.

His return is equally as important to the Wallabies, who are hosting England for three Tests in early July and looking to stop a run of eight successive Test losses.

"Last year's Spring tour, they did a job on us so we want to rectify that," O'Connor said. "It'll be awesome to have them here."

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Perth hosts the opening Test on July 2 before matches in Brisbane and Sydney at the SCG.

The Australians haven't lost at Suncorp Stadium in their past 10 Tests.

"This is a fortress for Australian rugby," O'Connor said. 

"When we come together with the Wallabies, this is definitely our favourite stadium to play at."

With Australia announced as the preferred candidate to host the men's Rugby World Cup in 2027 O'Connor said it was important to build wins to keep fans onside.

"It all comes down to how well we're doing on the field - when we're winning, when we're performing and when we're consistent, the crowds want to get behind us," O'Connor said.

"They can rely on us and we can rely on them. 

"We've definitely put some work in and we're building and we're at that stage now ... we've got England coming to our shores and last time in 2016 when they came out they beat us and I think we're at a place now where we can do the job."

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