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James O'Connor book Japan ticket

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Smile James, you're off to Japan

James O’Connor, you’re off to Japan.

The former bad boy was given the perfect chance to prove his worth when handed his first Test start in six years in Saturday night’s Bledisloe Cup showdown against New Zealand in Perth.

O’Connor didn’t disappoint at outside centre, with his form particularly strong early when the game was at its hottest.

The Wallabies dasher set up the opening try by clinging onto a messy pass and holding off an opponent.

The 29-year-old’s classy transfer allowed Reece Hodge the space to sprint to the line.

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O’Connor also displayed his strength in defence, hanging on with all his might to bring down powerful All Blacks skipper Kieran Read in the first half.

O’Connor wasn’t as prominent in the second half after the All Blacks were reduced to 14 men.

But his clean hands throughout the match and speed off the mark loom as vital in the Wallabies’ hopes of doing some damage at this year’s World Cup.

The Wallabies won 47-26, giving them a vital confidence boost with just two more Tests remaining until the World Cup starts.

O’Connor became the second youngest Wallaby to debut when he played his first Test at just 18 years of age in 2008.

A glittering career beckoned.

But a series of off-field issues saw him fall out of favour, with a drug bust in Paris in 2017 the lowest point in his career.

O’Connor has seemingly matured in recent times, and now has the chance to write a glorious late chapter to his career.

Hodge also deserves special mention.

Often the forgotten man in the Wallabies’ backline, Hodge was crucial against the All Blacks with two tries, a series of line breaks and solid defence.

– Justin Chadwick, AAP

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Smile James, you're off to Japan