James O'Connor is closing in on a Test recall which would set the scene for an almost unthinkable Wallabies reunion years in the making with comeback king Quade Cooper.
O'Connor will spend another week on the sidelines before potentially returning to the fray for a clash with Argentina next week - only this time, he could be gunning for Tom Banks' place at fullback.
A measured Cooper starred upon his return at flyhalf and retains the No. 10 jersey for a clash with South Africa in Brisbane on Saturday night.
Wallabies coach Dave Rennie wouldn't rule out O'Connor playing at fullback, thus pairing him with Cooper in the same starting XV, and says there is "definitely" room for both men in the match day 23.
Banks knows he has to deliver to ward off the challenge as the Wallabies chase back-to-back wins over the Springboks, and he is determined to shine against the world's No. 1 team to prove he belongs in Australia's No. 15 jersey.
MORE RUGBY UNION
"We'll look at everything. James has got himself in really good nick," Rennie said.
"We would definitely not have played him at fullback a couple of months ago and prior to that because from a high speed running perspective, he just hasn't hit any decent numbers for the past couple of years.
"He has worked really hard over that last period and it's the sharpest I've seen him. He's definitely back into a physical shape where we think we could use him as a utility as opposed to just a 10.
"This is the best I've seen James. We want him to be a genuine threat at 10 if space opens up that he can attack.
"All decisions will be made on form and what's best for the group. We feel we can definitely play both those guys in the same 23.
"He certainly brings a lot of experience. James, like Quade, has got a lot of Test footy under his belt. He was really impressive in our environment, he's a cool head.
"You've seen the influence he has on the Reds. He has a pretty good understanding and strong game awareness. To have someone like James come back into the fold is gold for us."
Banks feels as though the arrival of Cooper lifted a weight from his shoulders at fullback, and now the return of Nic White to the starting XV gives him another veteran to bounce off.
The knock on the 27-year-old has often been that while he thrives at Super Rugby level with the ACT Brumbies, Banks is yet to have the same impact in a gold jersey.
Rennie was questioned on Banks' selection last week and told reporters "I'm probably seeing something you're not seeing".
But Banks may be the unlucky man to be squeezed out of the XV as Rennie ponders the best way to use O'Connor.
"It's always going to happen. You're in a Wallabies environment, everyone is competing for positions. It is what it is," Banks said.
"James is a fantastic player and he has really shown what he can do this year in Super Rugby. As always, there is going to be competition for spots so you've just got to keep performing.
"Quade on his return showed his experience and he has still got what it takes. He brings a different element, a lot of composure, he is someone who really takes control and puts us in good positions on the field which as a fullback is good, because it takes a lot of weight off my shoulders.
"The players and the coaching staff got around me, they put a lot of confidence in me. The game plan we are trying to execute is something I really enjoy. It's coming a long way and we're getting a lot out of it."
THE RUGBY CHAMPIONSHIP
Saturday, September 18: Australia v South Africa at 5.05pm; Argentina v New Zealand at 8.05pm. Both games at Lang Park.
Wallabies squad: 1. James Slipper, 2. Folau Fainga'a, 3. Taniela Tupou, 4. Izack Rodda, 5. Matt Philip, 6. Lachlan Swinton, 7. Michael Hooper (c), 8. Rob Valetini, 9. Nic White, 10. Quade Cooper, 11. Marika Koroibete, 12. Samu Kerevi, 13. Len Ikitau, 14. Andrew Kellaway, 15. Tom Banks. Replacements: 16. Feleti Kaitu'u, 17. Angus Bell, 18. Tom Robertson, 19. Darcy Swain, 20. Pete Samu, 21. Tate McDermott, 22. Reece Hodge, 23. Jordan Petaia.
Springboks squad: 1. Trevor Nyakane, 2. Bongi Mbonambi, 3. Frans Malherbe, 4. Eben Etzebeth, 5. Marvin Orie, 6. Siya Kolisi (c), 7. Franco Mostert, 8. Duane Vermeulen, 9. Faf de Klerk, 10. Handre Pollard, 11. Makazole Mapimpi, 12. Damien de Allende, 13. Lukhanyo Am, 14. Sbu Nkosi, 15. Willie le Roux. Replacements: 16. Malcolm Marx, 17. Steven Kitshoff, 18. Vincent Koch, 19. Marco van Staden, 20. Kwagga Smith, 21. Jasper Wiese, 22. Herschel Jantjies, 23. Damian Willemse.
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