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New-look O'Connor thankful he withdrew from Wallabies tour

Fit … James O'Connor and Storm's Ryan Hinchcliffe.

Fit … James O'Connor and Storm's Ryan Hinchcliffe. Photo: Getty Images

NEVER mind the ridicule. So long as James O'Connor feels healthy the haircut stays.

''At times I've wanted to shave it off and get rid of it but I'm in a good space … sort of like Samson,'' the Melbourne Rebels star jokes of the top knot that is earning him plenty of grief from teammates.

O'Connor is contemplating having his locks lopped for a good cause, but he can already claim he has paid his dues after last year's nightmare.

As if watching the Rebels struggle through last year's Super Rugby season while being unable to overcome hamstring problems was not enough, one of Australia's best young players also had to decline a Wallabies tour, gifting club teammate Kurtley Beale the chance to shine as five-eighth.

O'Connor could have toured Europe, but ruled himself out to regain full fitness for this year. That he is now fitter, stronger, faster and looks like a coiled spring as he awaits the chance to play again proves sitting out the Wallabies tour was wise, although he admitted on Friday doing so was one of the hardest decisions he had ever made.

''That's the pinnacle of the game, that's why you play,'' he said.

''But for me, I'm 22, if I'd torn my hammy straight after that it would have been surgery and possibly out for a year. This is the time I want to be improving as a player and hitting my peak, these next few years.

''It was a big sacrifice. You never know how many Tests you're going to get and how many chances with the Wallabies and there's definitely boys in my position who have stepped up this [past] year, but I want to play Super Rugby and hopefully my performances get me back in the [national] team.''

O'Connor wants to play so badly he needs to be pulled in at training. He beams at the thought of starting a new season against his old side, the Western Force, on February 15, and feels stronger for overcoming his injury frustrations. The club's medical staff had traced his hamstring problems back to a liver laceration he suffered last year, when he was kneed in the side during a tackle. He could not overcome a hamstring injury that followed because his body could not get rid of all its acidity.

Winter meant early-morning rehab sessions. He started yoga, Pilates and meditation with Tibetan singing bowls - a ''hippie thing'' introduced to him by teammate and room-mate James King.

O'Connor is off contract this season, but said he was loving life ''under the radar'' in Melbourne and keen to emulate the success rugby league counterparts at the Storm have built in AFL territory. He was also keen to raise the internal competition with Beale in a bid to reclaim the five-eighth role.

''It's a position I like to play, I like to control the game … I see it as a win-win. Kurtley's come back from a Wallabies tour and a full year as the Wallabies' 10 so I guess he's got the background there. So it would be more me knocking him out of that position.''

Rugby World Cup 2015

Round 1
Sat, 19 SepTimes shown AEST
ENG 0vs FJI 0 05:00Twic
TGA 0vs GEO 0 21:00Kholm
IRE 0vs CAN 0 23:30MilS
Sun, 20 SepTimes shown AEST
SAF 0vs JPN 0 01:45Brig
FRA 0vs ITA 0 05:00Twic
SAM 0vs USA 0 21:00Brig
WAL 0vs URU 0 23:30MilS
Mon, 21 SepTimes shown AEST
NZL 0vs ARG 0 01:45Wemb
Wed, 23 SepTimes shown AEST
SCO 0vs JPN 0 23:30Kholm
Thu, 24 SepTimes shown AEST
AUS 0vs FJI 0 01:45MilS
FRA 0vs ROM 0 05:00Olym
Fri, 25 SepTimes shown AEST
NZL 0vs NAM 0 05:00Olym
Sat, 26 SepTimes shown AEST
ARG 0vs GEO 0 01:45Kholm
ITA 0vs CAN 0 23:30Ella
Sun, 27 SepTimes shown AEST
SAF 0vs SAM 0 01:45Villa
ENG 0vs WAL 0 05:00Twic
AUS 0vs URU 0 21:00Villa
SCO 0vs USA 0 23:30Ella
Mon, 28 SepTimes shown AEST
IRE 0vs ROM 0 01:45Wemb
Wed, 30 SepTimes shown AEST
TGA 0vs NAM 0 01:45Sand
Fri, 02 OctTimes shown AEST
WAL 0vs FJI 0 01:45MilS
FRA 0vs CAN 0 05:00stadium:mk
Sat, 03 OctTimes shown AEST
NZL 0vs GEO 0 05:00MilS
SAM 0vs JPN 0 23:30stadium:mk
Sun, 04 OctTimes shown AEST
SAF 0vs SCO 0 01:45St James' Park
ENG 0vs AUS 0 06:00Twic
Mon, 05 OctTimes shown AEDT
ARG 0vs TGA 0 00:30KPS
IRE 0vs ITA 0 02:45Olym
Wed, 07 OctTimes shown AEDT
CAN 0vs ROM 0 02:45KPS
FJI 0vs URU 0 06:00stadium:mk
Thu, 08 OctTimes shown AEDT
SAF 0vs USA 0 02:45Olym
NAM 0vs GEO 0 06:00Sand
Sat, 10 OctTimes shown AEDT
NZL 0vs TGA 0 06:00St James' Park
Sun, 11 OctTimes shown AEDT
SAM 0vs SCO 0 00:30St James' Park
AUS 0vs WAL 0 02:45Twic
ENG 0vs URU 0 06:00Manch
ARG 0vs NAM 0 22:00KPS
Mon, 12 OctTimes shown AEDT
ITA 0vs ROM 0 00:30Sand
FRA 0vs IRE 0 02:45MilS
USA 0vs JPN 0 06:00Kholm
View All Fixtures
Round 2
Sun, 18 OctTimes shown AEDT
WinB 0vs RUpA 0 02:00Twic
WinC 0vs RUpD 0 06:00MilS
WinD 0vs RUpC 0 23:00MilS
Mon, 19 OctTimes shown AEDT
WinA 0vs RUpB 0 02:00Twic
Sun, 25 OctTimes shown AEDT
WQF1 0vs WQF2 0 02:00Twic
Mon, 26 OctTimes shown AEDT
WQF3 0vs WQF4 0 03:00Twic
Sat, 31 OctTimes shown AEDT
LSF1 0vs LSF2 0 07:00Olym
Sun, 01 NovTimes shown AEDT
WSF1 0vs WSF2 0 03:00Twic
View All Fixtures
Rugby World Cup 2015
Overall standings
Team P W L D +/- Pts
France 0 0 0 0 0 0
New Zealand 0 0 0 0 0 0
Canada 0 0 0 0 0 0
Tonga 0 0 0 0 0 0
Japan 0 0 0 0 0 0
View all
Rugby World Cup 2015
Overall standings
Team P W L D +/- Pts
Romania 0 0 0 0 0 0
Argentina 0 0 0 0 0 0
England 0 0 0 0 0 0
Georgia 0 0 0 0 0 0
Scotland 0 0 0 0 0 0
View all
Rugby World Cup 2015
Overall standings
Team P W L D +/- Pts
Australia 0 0 0 0 0 0
USA 0 0 0 0 0 0
Italy 0 0 0 0 0 0
Ireland 0 0 0 0 0 0
View all
Rugby World Cup 2015
Overall standings
Team P W L D +/- Pts
Fiji 0 0 0 0 0 0
Samoa 0 0 0 0 0 0
Namibia 0 0 0 0 0 0
South Africa 0 0 0 0 0 0
Wales 0 0 0 0 0 0
View all
 

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