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James O'Connor the ultimate litmus test for aspiring Wallaby

Ben Donaldson. (Photo by Brett Hemmings/Getty Images)

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No hiding his desire to wear the Wallabies gold, emerging playmaker Ben Donaldson is relishing the chance to lock horns with veteran Test star James O’Connor on Friday night.


Donaldson’s head-to-head duel with O’Connor shapes as one of the intriguing sub-plots in the NSW Waratahs’ spicy derby with the Queensland Reds in Sydney.

In the ultimate master-versus-apprentice showdown, almost a decade and 61 Test caps separate 22-year-old Donaldson and 31-year-old O’Connor.

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Los Pumas star Pablo Matera joins the Aotearoa Rugby Pod.
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But the gulf in experience doesn’t so much daunt Donaldson but excite the youngster who is lining up for just his 13th Super Rugby game in the new Pacific model of the competition.

The NSW No.10 is making no secret that playing for the Wallabies in 2022 is his “number one goal” and getting the opportunity to showcase his credentials against O’Connor is priceless.

“It’s exciting,” Donaldson said on Wednesday. “The goal is to make the Wallabies squad so especially coming up against James this weekend, he’s a class player.

“I love testing myself against these guys who have been in the Wallabies set-up for a while now – play a few good games and you never know what might happen.


“If I can play a good game, earn his respect and then the coaches as well, it’s more exciting than anything.”

Battling to retain home-grown talent as cashed-overseas players chase the big bucks, Donaldson must be a breath of fresh air to Rugby Australia.


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With the British and Irish Lions touring in 2025 and southeast Queensland all but certain to host the 2027 Rugby World Cup, the ambitious youngster has no plans to go anywhere anytime soon.

“It’s very exciting for Australian rugby with all these big events happening in the next four to eight years,” Donaldson said.

“It’s not just me, but a lot of the young boys coming through are really striving to be around for those big events.

“For me personally, they’re a few goals of mine for the long term.

“As a 10, I feel like there’s a real opportunity the next few years to really push my case and keep improving so I can be around for those big competitions.”

Even if it means turning down millions of Japanese yen or the mega Euros and pounds on offer to play in France and England?

“Money overseas attracts a few players but I know myself and a few guys I’m mates with, we’re not too worried about money at this stage,” Donaldson said.

“We just want to play well for our state and our country and obviously a home World Cup would be massive.”

– Darren Walton


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