James O'Connor targeting Wallabies fullback jersey against England

By Justin Chadwick
June 07, 2010
Western Force fullback James O'Connor intends to make a strong point to Wallabies coach Robbie Deans when he lines up for the Australian Barbarians against England on Tuesday.
O'Connor was forced to watch from the bench as Kurtley Beale played a starring role at fullback in Saturday's 49-3 trouncing of Fiji in Canberra.

Deans has made it clear Test positions are still up for grabs and O'Connor, who will start at No.15 against England in the mid-week encounter, is desperate to regain his starting spot in the Wallabies' set-up.

"I'm still looking for that fullback spot, yeah," said O'Connor.

Watch a LIVE stream of Australian Barbarians v England on foxsports.com.au from 9pm EST on Tuesday night

"I'd be stoked to play anywhere just to get on the field.

"But fullback definitely, I have my eyes set on that one.

"I've sort of just grown into the position.

"I started enjoying it, especially playing the last couple of games for the Force.

"There's a lot of room to move and I can still get involved in that ball-playing role."

Utility back Berrick Barnes is another looking to push his case for a recall after missing last year's international rugby campaign with a serious ankle injury.

"It's an exciting chance for us guys," said Barnes, who will start at fly half against England.

"You see it as somewhat as a challenge.

"If you perform as a team you are more likely to gain individual success.

"Wherever Robbie picks me, I don't care where it is."

England named a strong side for the warm-up match but Jonny Wilkinson wasn't risked, with Charlie Hodgson earning the nod at fly half.

Harlequins flanker Chris Robshaw will captain the side and is joined by senior Test regulars Lee Mears and Ugo Monye, who were both on the British and Irish Lions tour 12 months ago, plus Delon Armitage and Mathew Tait.

"It's a great opportunity for both sets of coaches to look at each other and what the other team's going to do and for those players to force their ways into teams," England coach Martin Johnson said.

Deans said the match would give fringe players a good opportunity to press for higher honours.

"A lot of these blokes are getting an opportunity that hasn't been available to them in the past," Deans said.

"They are also conscious, I hope, of the fact players have emerged from these fixtures in recent times.

"Quade Cooper's an obvious example.

"We had a Test match on Saturday night and we've got another international on Tuesday night.

"You could argue that this will be more of an international than Saturday night.

"So we are going to see players in a context where we'll learn a lot."

Barbarians captain Stephen Hoiles said he expected a bruising encounter.

"We're taking it very seriously," Hoiles said.

"The team that wins the battle up front ... will win the game."