MELBOURNE (Reuters) – Dual international Michael O’Connor has been appointed to Australia’s new three-man selection panel ahead of the World Cup, Rugby Australia (RA) said on Wednesday.
The 12-test Wallabies centre, who became a top rugby league player for Manly, New South Wales and Australia, will join head coach Michael Cheika, and incoming Director of Rugby Scott Johnson on the panel as part of RA’s high performance restructuring announced last December.
Queensland-based O’Connor was previously an independent selector with the Wallabies from 2006-2007 and coached the Australian men’s sevens team from 2008 to 2014.
“I’ve gained a lot of different perspectives in over 20 years of involvement in rugby at a local, national and international level and I feel privileged to be able to take on this role as a national selector,” O’Connor said in an RA media release.
“I’ve got a great passion for the Wallabies and I’m not taking this opportunity lightly, it’s a huge honour.
“I’m very much looking forward to working with Michael Cheika and Scott Johnson.
“I have worked with Johnno before with the Wallabies back in 2007 and while I haven’t worked with Michael previously I have followed his teams very closely throughout the years and I think I’ve got a very good understanding of how he likes his team to play.”
Under Cheika, who previously had complete control over selections, Australia lost nine of their 13 tests in 2018 and have slumped to sixth in world rankings.
RA responded to the team’s worst season in 60 years by appointing Johnson above Cheika and transferring attack coach Stephen Larkham out of the Wallabies staff to an internal role.
RA CEO Raelene Castle said O’Connor’s “approach and philosophy around selection … really stood out.
“We believe Michael’s skills will complement the skills of both Michael Cheika and Scott Johnson and create a very open and challenging selection environment in an important year for the Wallabies.”
(Reporting by Ian Ransom; Editing by Greg Stutchbury)