After playing at out-half, centre and in the back 3, rugby’s most versatile man is going to specialise
BEING A UTILITY back can be both a blessing and a curse. Obviously if you are able to cover a lot of positions then you have a higher chance of getting in the team but it also means that you rarely get to settle in your favourite position.
Or you are shunted around so much that you don’t even know what your best position is. There is probably no greater example of this than Australia’s James O’Connor. Leaving aside some of his off-field troubles, there is no denying that O’Connor is a phenomenal talent.
But he has been playing professional rugby since 2008 and we still aren’t 100% sure what his best position is. He played at ten against the Lions, has started at centre regularly in Super Rugby and in the year of the last World Cup he played some his most scintillating rugby on the wing.
It appears that is what Wallaby boss Michael Cheika will look to channel this year too, as he has told The Australian newspaper that he sees him exclusively in the back three.
That is probably the best course of action for Cheika as O’Connor didn’t always look comfortable at out-half. The trouble with O’Connor and Kurtley Beale – besides the well-documented stuff – is that they are so adaptable that it can be hard for coaches to pigeonhole them into one position.
But if Cheika can pick the right blend in the backline, the Wallabies could recreate their dazzling style of play that made them one of the favourites in 2011.
What makes O’Connor such an effective wing is that when he comes in-field, he has the skills to create space not just for himself but for his team-mates too.
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