Sale Sharks fly-half James O’Connor
Shaved heads, sharks and shifting to fly-half all come up in conversation with Sale’s Wallaby
Who are the jokers
at Sale Sharks?
Josh Charnley. And probably Denny Solomona. They’ve got s**t banter – it’s really dry – but it’s good entertainment. There are a couple of other funny boys in the team too.
Did you have to do any initiations?
They got people up on the bus singing but I didn’t sing – I was feeling a bit sick at the time. A few of the boys had their heads shaved on our pre-season tour to France. Tom Curry got a mohawk and Matt Sturgess had it all shaved apart from a patch at the back. They were going to keep it until the weekend, but when we found out the Castres game was on TV they had it all shaved off.
What makes you laugh?
I tend to check out stuff on Netflix and I like Kevin Hart and those sort of guys.
What are your nicknames?
Rabs or Rabbit. I’ve had it since I was younger. I think it comes from my stepping and footwork.
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Do you have any phobias? Bad hair days perhaps?
I don’t have bad hair days. I think if I came face to face with a shark in the ocean I’d be a little bit scared.
What annoys you?
What do you do away from rugby?
Simple things. I like to get into nature. I’ve not had too much time to see things in Manchester yet but my house is near Dunham Massey. It’s a big park that has deer and swans. It’s pretty nice.
Why did you decide to join Sale?
It wasn’t the weather! I had some great chats with Steve (Diamond) and from the start I was very interested with the way they play. It’s great attacking rugby, and it’s a place where I felt I could take my rugby to the next level and I could be a key link to help this team go to the next level as well.
I really want to push myself by playing at ten or in a ball-playing position. I enjoy it in closer where I can have more say on the game. I haven’t played ten in a while, but that’s a focal point on me coming here and testing myself.
How are you settling in?
The area I’m in is really nice and relaxed. There are good coffee shops and restaurants, with a little town area, but it’s not too big. It’s very picturesque.
I love Australia and I’ll move back there when I retire, but I want to explore the world while I can and play rugby. So at the moment it’s a win-win.
Are you able to understand the Mancunian accent?
There are times when I have to say, “Sorry, what are you saying?” I don’t understand a few of the guys. I’m sure down the track I’ll understand more.
Any embarrassing moments?
I don’t remember them. It’s probably when I was younger and horse riding for the first time. I fell off the horse and my foot was stuck in the stirrup, so I got dragged along behind it. My dad didn’t realise and was just telling me to hold on until he turned around and saw me.
Who would be your three dream dinner party guests?
Viktor Frankl. I’ve read his book (Man’s Search for Meaning) about the last of the human freedoms. He’s a survivor of Auschwitz and is an inspiring guy. Conor McGregor – I’m a big fan and enjoyed his fight against Mayweather. And the last one would be Jessica Alba. She seems a nice woman and is intelligent.
What’s your guilty pleasure?
Salt and vinegar Pringles. I could eat a whole tube easy. I could probably eat two. I have them every second day as a treat meal!
If you could be any of your team-mates, who would it be and why?
Maybe Halani Aulika. Just to be a massive guy so when you walk around all the people are looking at you.
What would you like to achieve
outside of rugby?
To be happy.
How do you want to be remembered?
He was happy! I’d like to be remembered as a rugby player.
This article first appeared in the November 2017 issue of Rugby World.