Former Wallaby James O’Connor believes his move to Sale Sharks will prove to be the perfect union after leaving French giants Toulon.
The 27-year-old fly-half joined Sale on a three-year contract from French side Toulon in the summer but has yet to make his debut for the club as he has been recovering from summer ankle surgery.
But O’Connor has now started training with the first team squad and could be in contention to figure in Friday’s key Premiership clash against London Irish at the AJ Bell Stadium – a side he spent a year with back in 2013/14.
And he says his brief time settling in alongside his new colleagues in Manchester has already convinced him that Steve Diamond’s ambitious Sale, who are striving to reestablish their place at the top table of English rugby, will be the perfect environment to allow him to flourish and rediscover the talent that earned him 44 caps for Australia.
“I wouldn’t have come if I didn’t think I could help the club in its bid to be successful,” says James.
“I wasn’t planning to come back to England – it was never part of my plan to come back here to play in the Premiership. But after speaking to Steve he made that much of an impression.
“Then I met a few of the guys and saw the place and spoke to some of the people involved and to the owners.
“They say that the eyes are the gateway to the soul and I could tell from talking to everyone that things are going on here. They want to make things happen.
“It’s so refreshing because it’s probably the first place I’ve been to where everything that was promised to me has been done.”
Ironically, the Wallaby revealed that his initial introduction to Sale director of rugby Steve Diamond came via another of the game’s most exciting fly-halves – Danny Cipriani, who enjoyed four hugely successful years at Sale between 2012 and 2016.
The Sale director of rugby and his coaching staff played a key role in reigniting Cipriani’s career and O’Connor – who played alongside Cipriani at Melbourne Storm – says he is confident he can follow suit.
“Danny linked me in with Steve. I don’t think it any secret that Danny really enjoyed his time here and he probably played some of the best rugby I’ve ever seen him play in his career when he was at Sale,” James added.
“I may be biased because he’s a very good mate of mine but I think Danny dominated the competition as a ball player in the years he was here. He was a huge attacking threat.
“For me, he linked us up and I don’t think Steve needs any introductions – he is his own man!
“I’d like to think I’m pretty similar in that also I’m honest and upfront. It has got me into trouble before but I’d rather be honest.
“From the moment I got here it has been good and I know that it is going to turn out well.
“I want to be an integral part of this team.
“And I think I’m at that stage of my life and my rugby career where I want to start pushing forward and winning a title.”
O’Connor says he is looking forward to seeing some of his former colleagues when London Irish visit the AJ Bell Stadium this Friday (8 PM). However, he left no doubt as to where his loyalties now lie.
“My year at Irish was good fun. London was interesting for me – I was down in Richmond, the team were great and it was a good organisation,” James recalled.
“But there is nothing better than playing against one of your old teams – especially when you think your new team is better!”