Northampton v London Irish: Smith backs O’Connor to shine

London Irish James O'Connor v Northampton

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London Irish coach Brian Smith has backed new signing James O’Connor to lift the side when he makes his debut against Northampton on Sunday.

The Australian was unveiled by the club on Tuesday, following months of speculation surrounding his future due to him failing to find a new Super Rugby contract in his homeland since his departure from the Melbourne Rebels.

Despite his tremendous talent, the 23-year-old is seen as something of a l’enfant terrible of world rugby after a string of off-field incidents that have seen him lose his place in the international set-up and it is unclear if he remains in Wallaby boss Ewen McKenzie’s long-term plans.

There is no doubting his ability though and he will certainly be sharp due to him recently playing in the Rugby Championship.

O’Connor will line-up at full-back for Irish against the Saints in Reading, a position in which he has often excelled in and will certainly add extra creativity out wide for the Exiles.

After a long week of paper talk, coach Smith is now looking forward to seeing his star man on the field and has backed him to shine in what will be an extremely tough clash.

“The team is looking forward to the contest on Sunday,” Smith told the club’s official website. “We felt we let a golden opportunity to win a valuable Premiership match slip last weekend and want to put in a big performance in front of our home supporters.

“Northampton are the in-form team at the moment and we will have to be at our best to shut them down. It’s been a big week for the Club with the announcement of James O’Connor and we hope we see a big turn out by our supporters on Sunday to welcome him to the Club.”

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