AAP Rugby

James O’Connor guides Petaia on rugby

By AAP Newswire

James O'Connor has advised Wallabies rising star Jordan Petaia to keep his head down at the Rugby World Cup and don't even think about his label as the sport's next big thing in Australia.

Former bad boy O'Connor said he plans to talk to his Wallabies and Queensland Reds teammate about the possible pitfalls of stardom when they return home from Japan.

Until then, he says 19-year-old Petaia should stay grounded and adopt a training-by-training, game-by-game attitude.

The teenager lived up to the hype on debut against Uruguay on Saturday when becoming the youngest ever World Cup Wallaby. He scored one try and brilliantly set up another before being hooked at halftime.

Petaia could have no more appropriate mentor at the tournament than O'Connor, who burst onto the international stage as an 18-year-old, becoming the second youngest player to represent his country.

O'Connor's career famously veered off course due to multiple off-field indiscretions and he vows he's returned a reformed man, six years after having his Australian contract torn up.

The 29-year-old recounted again on Monday how he had overcome his demons and detailed the "long journey" back, both physically and spiritually.

He also revealed he had spoken to Petaia's parents Helen and Tielu, who are in Japan, about the pressures that may lie ahead for their son.

All the evidence, he said, pointed towards Petaia having a personality to cope with fame better than he had.

"I've spoken to his folks briefly about that sort of stuff but I think it will more come when he settles into the Reds," O'Connor said.

"He's got a level head on him. I think he's been brought up very well.

"Obviously he's got a job at hand to do here and once he goes back, things will change for him."

O'Connor sought out Petaia the night before his debut.

The chat was mostly rugby-related, similar to the advice he received from teammates before facing Italy in Padova in 2008.

"He was a bit calmer than I was on debut, that's for sure," O'Connor said.

"I think we all sort of knew Jordan was going to carve up.

"I see it in training, he's a freak athlete. His composure for his age is well above anyone of that age level."

Meanwhile, O'Connor said he has still not completely recovered from a corked thigh suffered during his 50th Test, the pool loss to Wales last month.

He was a late scratching from the bench to face Uruguay but after days of intense treatment was confident of being available for this Friday's final pool match against Georgia.