The Wallaby star talks fears, flying and France with Sarah Mockford

RUGBY WORLD: Who are the jokers in the Wallaby squad?

JAMES O’CONNOR: Kurtley Beale is one of the characters, he’s quite an extrovert and gets all the boys up. He can take a joke too and takes the mickey out of himself. Adam Ashley-Cooper also has a good sense of humour and so does Benn Robinson.

RW: What’s your guilty pleasure?

JOC: I love fried food. I shouldn’t love it but I do and if I’m having a cheat day I’ll have fried chicken.

RW: What’s the funniest thing you’ve heard on the pitch?

Getting his kicks: Mitchell

Getting his kicks: Mitchell

JOC: In my first season at Western Force, Drew Mitchell really got under the skin of James Horwill in a game against the Reds. Drew called him ‘Apple Turnover’ – he was conceding a lot of turnovers. You could see from his body language that he was affected. Drew’s got a lot of banter!

RW: What are your nicknames?

JOC: Rabbit or Rabs is the most common one. I’ve had that since school because of the way I’d sidestep. I’ve also been called Clouds because whenever we have a meeting about a game I can zone out. It’s because I learn visually and try to visualise the situations.

RW: Any phobias?

JOC: It used to be heights but I’ve been bungee-jumping and sky-diving, so that one’s gone now. I try to face fears, to break them.

RW: What are your bugbears?

JOC: Auto-correct on text messages. That really gets to me. I use slang and it changes the words to things that mean something totally different. I also don’t like people biting their nails.

RW: Superstitions?

JOC: I like to have a nap on game day. I also put my right boot on after my left and then tie them up. As a goalkicker you want your boots to feel exactly right and to be aesthetically pleasing. I’ll retie them before I go out for the game.

RW: Do you have any hidden talents?

JOC: I’m learning to play the guitar and to speak a bit of French.

RW: Is that ahead of a move to the Top 14?

JOC: A lot of rugby players have taken that path and it could happen for me down the track. I just really like the lifestyle in the South of France – good culture, good people, good food. They enjoy themselves, too. They work to live rather than live to work.

Dinner anyone? Jolie

Dinner anyone? Jolie

RW: Who would be your dream guests for a dinner party?

JOC: Viktor Frankl (author and neurologist). I read his book in the last year of school and have tried to bring some of his ideas into my life. I’d spice it up a bit and throw in a movie star, someone who’s a lot of fun. Maybe Angelina Jolie and Marilyn Monroe. That would be a great dinner party with a lot of interesting stories and conversations.

RW: If you could have one superpower, what would it be and why?

JOC: Definitely to fly. Or be invisible. Or mind-reading. Maybe chuck in a flash of speed! Number one would be flying, though, just the thrill of soaring through the air. I’ve dreamt about that; it would be amazing.

RW: What would you like to achieve outside of rugby?

JOC: A fair few things. I’d like to finish my law degree – I’m picking at it slowly. I don’t necessarily want to become a lawyer, but doing what I do at the moment there are a lot of contracts and I’d like to have a control over and understanding of them. It would also be very useful in business environments after I finish playing. I also want to learn a language and be able to play an instrument – I might switch from the guitar to the piano.

RW: How’d you like to be remembered?

JOC: I’d like people to see me as outgoing and bubbly, but also compassionate, fair and determined.

This was published in the August 2013 edition of Rugby World. Click here to see what’s in the current issue.