James O’Connor doesn’t see himself as the solution to Australia’s inaccurate goalkicking heading into their key Rugby World Cup clash with Wales.
A worrying trend has emerged in the Wallabies’s last three Tests which will need to be addressed before another expected tight, tense encounter with the Welsh in Tokyo on Sunday to probably determine the winners of group D.
The gripping 15-6 pool win over Wales at the 2015 World Cup featured five penalties from an ice-cool Bernard Foley while the most recent Test in Cardiff last November, where the Welsh prevailed 9-6, was also tryless.
Australia’s recent stat sheet reads six successful shots from 15 attempts, shared between five-eighths Christian Lealiifano (one from four), Foley (2/6), winger Reece Hodge (1/2) and inside back Matt Toomua (2/3).
O’Connor was the first-choice Test goalkicker from 2009-13 before he was sacked following a series of off-field incidents.
But the reformed outside centre who was a surprise recall this year, said on Monday: “I was a completely different person back then.”
It seems that extends to goalkicking where he hasn’t even been practising in Japan, such is the trust placed in the four kickers.
“I can goal kick, I do have that up my sleeve but I haven’t been able to practise much at the moment,” he said.
“But in saying that, I do have confidence in our four main kickers. They’re working hard, they’re training hard.
“I’ve got my job in the team and I don’t need to stare into that.”
— RugbyPass (@RugbyPass) September 23, 2019
A 2014 study ranked O’Connor as the world’s best goalkicker “under pressure” when more weight was given to shots of importance.
His most famous goal was the conversion of his own try from wide out after the hooter when the Wallabies downed the All Blacks 26-24 in Hong Kong in 2010.
He had the responsibility at the 2011 World Cup, and has racked up 153 points from 25 penalties and 29 conversions.
The other thing in the 29-year-old outside centre’s favour is his probable first-choice status at the tournament while there is uncertainty over who will eventually settle at five-eighth out of Lealiifano, Foley and Toomua.
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