Putting his country first: O'Connor is expected to return to the Western Force but may wait until after the first two Bledisloe Cup Tests to make a decision. Photo: Getty Images
James O'Connor says he will delay making a decision about his playing future until as late as after the first two Bledisloe Cup Tests.
O'Connor is widely expected to return to his first club, the Western Force, after two seasons at the Rebels, but said he wanted to put all his energy into helping the Wallabies beat the All Blacks before going back to contract negotiations.
"I've left that with my management," he said. "If I was thinking about that, my sole focus wouldn't be on preparing for the All Blacks – and they're a team that needs that.
"If I'm not 100 per cent focused on training and how I'm going to play against them, then I'm not doing the team credit."
O'Connor endured a difficult series against the British and Irish Lions as the Wallabies starting five-eighth and has been told by new Wallabies coach Ewen McKenzie that he will be returned to the wing or fullback going forward.
The 23-year-old 37-Test utility, who has also played at inside centre, conceded he found the Lions series and attendant scrutiny "tough".
"Not only the competition being probably the toughest football I've ever played, but there was a lot of pressure," he said. "I thought in each game I improved a little bit but as a whole we weren't successful, so I take that as a loss."
There were also off-field controversies, including a 4.30am burger run with teammate Kurtley Beale in the week leading up to the second Test in Melbourne.
O'Connor and McKenzie had a face-to-face chat before the new coach announced his 40-man extended squad late last month, in which both parties clarified their expectations.
"I guess if I could go back I would definitely change situations and things that happened, but the reality is I can't, I can just take the advice I've been given and knuckle down and work hard," O'Connor said.
McKenzie said he had been pleased with the young playmaker's willingness to do the work in camp.
"In the end I just judge players by how they act and what they do and now he's come in here and done exactly what we wanted, putting the hard yards in on the training field, giving us the benefit of his football ability," McKenzie said.
"He's doing all the right things around the edges as is everyone else, so he's fitted in really well, as I expected he would."
The Rugby Championship kicks off when the Wallabies play the All Blacks at ANZ Stadium this Saturday.