“There are things I want to achieve in Australia and every sportsman wants to be playing at the highest level for their country,” says James O’Connor on the phone line across the other side of the world, “But I loved playing in France and England and I would definitely like to go back over.”
With his former home of London currently the epicentre of the rugby world, the 25-year-old is in a reflective mood. The capital was his base for eight months when he joined London Irish in October 2013. His highlight during the stint was a 22-9 victory against Worcester Warriors where he scored all 22 points.
“The boys at London Irish were great and I felt very welcome from the start,” he says, “At that time in my career, it was a tough transition but they made it very seamless. Everyone there is very close, family orientated and the style of rugby we played was exciting. I learnt a lot.”
A very brief spell at Toulon followed before returning back to Australia to play for Queensland Reds.
“The English premiership is closer to touch rugby than super rugby,” he says, “The speed of Super rugby is a bit quicker but over in England, and even France, if you come into the opposition’s half and don’t get any points it’s going to cost you. It’s a high pressure game with a lot more tactics used.”
Having narrowly missed out on the Wallabies World Cup squad, O’Connor has to enjoy this year’s tournament from the recovery room. With two operations on the horizon, he will spend the next few weeks recuperating leaving plenty of time to enjoy the World Cup.
“I want the Aussies to win, that would be the best case scenario but it’s hard to get past the All Blacks – they always set the benchmark.”
“The weather shouldn’t take away from the southern hemisphere teams too much but when it comes to finals, each team will have to play a wet weather game.”
“It’s whether they can adapt and change their game – play tighter and a little bit wider,” he says, “This World Cup will definitely come down to close points.”
But there’s a glimmer of hope for the hosts, too. “England will be very tough to beat on home soil too – they have a great kicker in Farrell as well.”