O'Connor to stake Wallabies claim in comeback game

A mentally and physically revitalised James O'Connor feels primed to state his case for a Wallabies recall in this all-important Rugby World Cup year.

Having finally recovered from off-season ankle surgery, O'Connor will make his eagerly awaited starting comeback on Sunday, some six months after being made the scapegoat for Australia's record-setting 48-17 Rugby Championship loss to the Pumas in Argentina.

Then-Wallabies coach Dave Rennie unceremoniously punted the goalkicking playmaker following the Mendoza massacre but O'Connor gets his chance to showcase his five-eighth credentials to Australia's new mentor Eddie Jones in the Queensland Reds' Super Rugby Pacific clash with the Fijian Drua in Brisbane.

The race for the Wallabies' No.10 jumper is wide open, with O'Connor jostling with fellow veterans Quade Cooper and Bernard Foley, as well as young guns Noah Lolesio, Ben Donaldson, Tane Edmed and even potentially his Reds teammate Tom Lynagh, the son of World Cup-winning legend Michael.

"It's a clean slate for everyone," O'Connor said of Jones' appointment.

"It's still early days in Super. Form is going to dictate who's playing and who's not.

"I put my hand up - I wasn't playing my best footy last year so I didn't have any hard feelings with Dave dropping me. It lit the fire in me again.

"There's a lot you can talk about. Did I feel hard done by? Yeah, of course I did.

"But, again, it was a good reality check for me and I've really tweaked up a few things and changed my mindset towards a few others so I'm in a really good space and just enjoying my footy.

"And when you're enjoying your footy and life off (the field), things tend to go in your favour."

O'Connor, now 32, debuted for the Wallabies as a teenage wunderkind back in 2008 under Robbie Deans.

He says he hasn't spoken with Jones since the former England coach's shock replacement of Rennie in January.

"We know each other - or I know him - quite well," O'Connor said.

"He coached me at a few training sessions when I was at high school (on the Gold Coast) and he was the Reds coach. I was coming in with my hand up to be picked out of school.

"And we've crossed paths quite a lot through Europe and the UK.

"(But) I've got to put some good performances in."

Starting with a decent display against the Drua on Sunday.

"The easier thing is to look into the future and live ahead. That's probably what we do as humans," O'Connor said.

"As you get a little bit older and you've learnt a little bit, you realise that process is everything.

"That's how you get the outcome."

With two starts off the bench for the Reds, O'Connor has only had 68 minutes of action this season.

"I'm just focusing on this week," he said. "It's a quicker game (these days). I'm not going to lie. I was blowing after 40.

"So I'm just excited for myself just to keep building on my last two performances.

"My focus this week is winning with the Reds and creating ... opportunities for us to get higher up on the ladder."