Australia continues to prepare for the upcoming Rugby Championship.
Controversial back James O’Connor said he is prepared to change his ways to be part of the Wallabies set-up under new coach Ewen McKenzie.
The 23-year-old, who is looking for a club after being dumped by the Melbourne Rebels, also said he was embracing the new team culture, ahead of Saturday’s opening Rugby Championship Test against the All Blacks in Sydney.
McKenzie, who took over as Australia coach from Robbie Deans last month after the series loss to the British and Irish Lions, has included O’Connor in his 30-man squad for the southern hemisphere series, but as an outside back.
Capped 40 times, he received mixed reviews as fly-half against the Lions and will likely play on the wing or at fullback if he is chosen to start in the All Blacks clash.
O’Connor also incurred some disciplinary issues and unwanted media headlines under former coach Deans, including being spotted at a burger bar in the early hours in the week of the second Test against the Lions.
“I don’t play rugby to be talked about off the field,” O’Connor told reporters. “I’m playing rugby because I love it and that’s what I want to be doing, playing for my country.
“At the moment I’m doing the hard yards and I’m trying to get involved and earn myself into the team.”
O’Connor revealed that McKenzie spoke to the squad after they assembled last week about what he expects in terms of standards of behaviour.
“It’s not hard to do, it’s just putting the team first,” O’Connor said. “I can’t express everything, but it’s something I’m pretty excited about. It’s something I know I can be part of.”
O’Connor said he was in the process of changing his approach.
“There’s definitely things that I already have changed and am in the process of doing, personal things,” he said.
He added that he was excited about McKenzie’s vision of the way he wants Australia to play.
“We spoke about the game plan and it’s got a lot of boys excited, especially being a back,” O’Connor said.
“Just the scope. There’s a lot of landscape in the game plan to express yourself.”
O’Connor is looking for a club after the Melbourne Rebels declined to offer him a new deal, just a day after the final Lions Test.
Reports said only his former club Western Force was talking to him after other Australian Super Rugby franchises, ACT Brumbies, NSW Waratahs and Queensland Reds said they had no room in their squads.