James O'Connor set for Australia fly-half role

James O'Connor takes on Shane Williams
James O'Connor takes on Shane Williams at the World Cup

Australia could give James O'Connor the chance to fill Quade Cooper's place at fly-half on the forthcoming tour clashes with Wales and the Barbarians.

Wallabies coach Robbie Deans has named a 26-man squad for the games on Saturday, 26 November against the Barbarians at Twickenham and a week later against Wales.

Cooper injured a knee as Australia beat Wales to World Cup bronze.

Australia are also without full-back Kurtley Beale (hamstring).

Prop Pekahou Cowan earns a recall and Robbie Deans' squad also includes three uncapped players in centre Ben Tapuai, full-back/scrum-half Ben Lucas and back-five forward Dave Dennis alongside a host of familiar names.

Cooper underwent knee surgery after collapsing in agony against Wales at Eden Park.

Deans says O'Connor, 21, is keen to test himself at fly-half having recently played mostly on the wing at Test level.

"It's very likely he (O'Connor) will get the opportunity to step up and accept some of the greater responsibility that comes with directing the game," said New Zealander Deans.

"He is 21 now and starting to grow into his body.

"As he gets older he will be more able to cope with the rigours of the frontline.

"He has expressed (a desire) that over time it's an area he'd like to play.

"Given our circumstance, it's possible you might see him there."

The Wallabies were beaten in the World Cup semi-finals and hope to return to Australia unbeaten.

They will face the Barbarians at Twickenham on 26 November before tackling Wales in Cardiff a week later.

Deans says Tapuai, Lucas and Dennis can bring fresh energy to their efforts.

He said: "Blokes exposed at this level for the first time bring an enthusiasm which is infectious.

"That enthusiasm will rub off, there's no doubt about that.

"We've already been through the emotional ride of (the) disappointment of not being able to beat New Zealand and we will have 26 excited blokes (on tour).

"We've got two tough fixtures and have picked the best team available. It's a great opportunity for this group."

Australia squad: Ben Alexander, Adam Ashley-Cooper, Berrick Barnes, Pekahou Cowan, Dave Dennis, Anthony Faingaa, Will Genia, Scott Higginbotham, Matt Hodgson, Rob Horne, James Horwill (capt), Digby Ioane, Ben Lucas, Salesi Ma'afu, Ben McCalman, Stephen Moore, James O'Connor, Nick Phipps, David Pocock, Tatafu Polota Nau, Radike Samo, Nathan Sharpe, Rob Simmons, James Slipper, Ben Tapuai, Lachie Turner.

Top Stories