It was baby steps in James O’Connor’s Brisbane Test return but the man himself was quick to point out he’s not a boy anymore following six years in the Wallabies wilderness.
O’Connor was warmly welcomed back to Suncorp Stadium for the final 12 minutes of the side’s 16-10 defeat of Argentina but he barely got a touch.
That didn’t worry the 29-year-old, who was happy to lap up the experience on the ground he will call home with the Queensland Reds next season.
“I’ve put it out there, how much I’ve actually missed being there,” he told Fox Sports afterwards.
“It’s such an opportunity to play for your country; there’s definitely something building here nicely (ahead of September’s World Cup) and I don’t want us to get too ahead of ourselves, but it’s great to be back and involved.”
O’Connor had his share of off-field dramas that looked to have ruined a budding Test career that began when he was just 18.
“I’m not a boy anymore,” O’Connor reflect ed of his time away from international rugby.
“I spent six years in the wilderness and found myself and developed and learnt a lot about rugby and a lot off the field
“I guess I know what’s important to me now and this is it.”
Michael Cheika said his brief cameo was the perfect re-introduction.
“He’s had a big few weeks – he wasn’t even in Australia until a couple of weeks ago,” the coach told reporters after the match.
“He didn’t get to do much, but I just wanted him to get out there and get the nerves out, because I can see him playing a big part down the track.”
O’Connor replaced Tevita Kuridrani in the centres but Cheika likes his versatility, while his teammates have enjoyed what he’s brought to the team dynamic.
“He’s a mature lad and rubs off on a lot of the lads,” long-time friend and Wallabies fullback Kurtley Beale told Fox Sports.
“When he’s on he’s on and has such a special rugby brain; it’s great to have him back in the group and it’s created really great competition with each other.”
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