KSA Shark ©

O’Connor makes history


Written by Andre Bosch (KSA Shark ©)

Posted in :In the news, Super 14 on 18 Apr 2008 at 19:35
Tagged with :

James O’Connor became the youngest player in the history of Super 14 rugby when he made his debut off the bench for the Western Force in their loss to the Reds on Friday.

Rugby 365 reports that the youngster was called upon to replace the injured Tamaiti Horua late in the game, and the new landmark was set as O’Connor, aged 17 years and 287 days, took the field.

O’Connor’s record is quite an interesting case however, and there seems to be a difference in opinion between the International Rugby Board (IRB) and SANZAR, the organisers of the Super 14, about the lower age limits of players.

The prodigious O’Connor has been ruled out of playing against players roughly his own age, after the IRB decided he was too young to compete at the World Under-20 Championships in Wales in June.

Yet the Western Force feel that he is good enough and old enough to play in arguably the toughest arena outside of Test rugby in the Super 14, against hardened professionals, many of whom are merciless internationals much older than O’Connor.

The youngster’s achievement also brings up the case of David Pocock, who was selected to play for the Western Force shortly after the birth of the franchise in 2006.

Pocock, who watched O’Connor join his team on the field on Friday, was also 17 years of age then, but he was prevented from actually playing for the Force until he was 18 years old. This coincided with the final round-robin match of the 2006 Super 14, against the Sharks, and it was in this match that Pocock made his debut.

South African Rugby Union (SARU) General Manager of media and policy, Christo Ferreira, said that no ruling in terms of a minimum age currently applies in the Super 14.

Any player could thus be picked to play for a Super 14 franchise, regardless of his age.

It does seem quite unlikely though that O’Connor’s mark will be broken soon, considering the physical demands of the competition.



8 Comments

  • Here is the Pocock Story from March 2006.

    Force can unleash Pocock
    By Tim Clarke
    March 21, 2006

    THE decision by the Australian Rugby Union to relax age restrictions on players has given the green light for Western Force to introduce teen star David Pocock into Super 14.

    In the past, ARU rules said boys under the age of 18 could not play against men, and boys were also banned from turning out against opposition players more than two years older than them.
    But the ARU today announced its senior rugby and two-year window policies would become non-mandatory, meaning players under 18 will be allowed to play in open competition if they can satisfy the ARU, parents and coaches they are physically ready.

    Club officials will have to fill out a disclosure form, acknowledging physical development, skill level, playing environment and the standard of opposition have been taken into account in the selection.

    Force hierarchy said following the announcement that back rower Pocock, who turns 18 in April, was likely to get a taste of Super 14 on his return from the under-19 world championship in Dubai.

    “It is great for us for the future, (but) I think you have always got to be careful with these sort of things,” set piece coach Ben Darwin said.

    “It is incredibly rare that a 17 year old would be ready to play this standard of football, but Dave is just one of those very special players.

    “There are other footballers probably going around in New South Wales schools that might be ready to play in the back line, but in terms of forwards this is quite special.

    “He is a massively strong guy … he is ready to go, and this ruling really shows that we were right.”

    Force came under ARU scrutiny when it played the Australian Schoolboys star in a pre-season trial against the Cheetahs.

    ARU chief executive Gary Flowers said the Pocock case had generated a lot of interest, but it was not the reason for the rule change.

    “While the issue of David Pocock … attracted a lot of attention in the Super 14 pre-season, it was not the catalyst for a change to the policy,” Flowers said.

    “We have been talking to clubs, parents and coaches at the grassroots level for the past six months … we have listened, and recognise that to maximise player safety, the policy requires flexibility.”

    “It also recognises that coaches, parents and players themselves are usually best qualified to assess a player’s physical development, skill level, experience, playing environment and the standard of opposition.”

    Pocock is expected to move up from University colts to A-grade on his return from Dubai, and he could tour South Africa when the Perth-based side takes on the Cats, Cheetahs and Sharks in the final three rounds of the Super 14 series.

    “It gives us a bit of clarity in terms of what we can do with our contracted players,” Darwin said.

  • Comment 1, posted at 18.04.08 19:39:01 by KSA Shark © (FJ!ELN!) Reply
    KSA Shark ©Head Coach
     
  • I cannot find an article that Says Pocock had to wait although that is how I remember it.

    If he did have to wait, then WHAT has SINCE happend that allowed the Force to use him today?

  • Comment 2, posted at 18.04.08 19:43:09 by KSA Shark © (FJ!ELN!) Reply
    KSA Shark ©Head Coach
     
  • Here you go.

    PETER JENKINS

    February 01, 2006

    ONE of Australia’s brightest rugby talents is banned from playing Super 14 – because the world governing body says he’s too young.

    Teen sensation David Pocock, an Australian Schoolboys flanker signed by the Western Force, has been caught out by a regulation that prevents anyone under the age of 18 playing at the senior level.

    According to Force chief executive Peter O’Meara, Zimbabwe-born Pocock has the “build of Adonis” at 181cm and 99kg. Rugby league legend Steve Roach, who followed the Schoolboys tour through Europe last year to watch his son Daniel in action, claims Pocock was the standout of the trip.

    At 17, and with his birthday not until April 23, Pocock is ineligible for provincial or even club football until the last three weeks of Super 14.

    But his case is in the spotlight after the Force defied an order from the Australian Rugby Union and played Pocock in a pre-season trial.

    The ARU confirmed last night an inquiry was under way.

    The rookie, who is signed to an Academy contract with the Perth-based franchise, was given 20 minutes against South African side the Cheetahs last week.

    An ARU spokesman said there was a chance the Force could have funds withheld – a fine by any other name – over their decision to play the under-age star.

    “We advised them he couldn’t play,” an ARU spokesman said last night.

    “It’s an (International Rugby Board) regulation and is ARU board policy. There’s a bit of paper that says they can’t do it.”

    But Pocock, whose father was flown from Brisbane to Perth by the Force to sign a waiver, last night defended his cameo.

    O’Meara also vowed the Force would now toe the line over a regulation brought in only last year to ban boys from playing against men. In the NRL, players can be selected at 16 years of age.

    “I loved every minute of it,” said Pocock. “When I was on the field I didn’t feel intimidated at all. If you’re good enough you’re old enough.

    “Peter (O’Meara) and (coach) John Mitchell made it clear it was up to me if I wanted to play, and I was keen.

    “It’s just disappointing I won’t have the chance to push for a (Super 14) spot this year. But I’ll get stuck into training and prepare myself for next season.”

    O’Meara admitted the Force were aware of the IRB ruling but were never planning to thumb their noses at rugby bosses by playing Pocock in the series proper.

    He also asked for leniency over trialling a youngster who has been on a high-performance program with the ARU for the past two years and is already touted as a future Wallaby.

    “Because of the age regulation, we want to bring him through the under 19s and under 21s this year and then cut him loose next season,” said O’Meara.

    “But I think we need to look at this issue.

    “(The regulation) is there to basically protect the interests of younger men who are not part of a professional organisation and are involved perhaps in (social or club) rugby. We have to accept there will be exceptions to the rule.

    “Over the past 20 years, I haven’t seen too many players of the same age who have had this lad’s physical maturity. He’s an exceptional athlete.

    “The first guy who ran at him the other night was cut in half,” O’Meara said.

    So I ask again WHAT HAS CHANGED since 2006 that has allowed the Force to play a 17 year old?

  • Comment 3, posted at 18.04.08 19:50:37 by KSA Shark © (FJ!ELN!) Reply
    KSA Shark ©Head Coach
     
  • Ksa, the answer was in the first story you posted :)

  • Comment 4, posted at 18.04.08 20:36:27 by robdylan (LTOFT) Reply
    Competition Winner Administrator
    robdylanHead Coach
     
  • What position is this O’Connor? And how did he shape up in the few minutes he was on the park?

  • Comment 5, posted at 18.04.08 22:12:30 by Villie Reply
    Competition Winner
    VillieCurrie Cup player
     
  • :smile: Rob?

    You refering to this piece?

    South African Rugby Union (SARU) General Manager of media and policy, Christo Ferreira, said that no ruling in terms of a minimum age currently applies in the Super 14.

    I read that, but it still doesn’t answer what has happened since the Pocock decision.

    In 2006 Pocock was not allowed to play because the ARU were in agreement with the IRB, Now Suddenly SARU (WTF has this got to do with them) comment that there is no age restriction in S14 Rugby. I would have throught somebody from SANZAR would comment.

    When did they lift the age limit and I would be very interested to know why it was throught that it is okay for a 17 year old to play S14 when the IRB doesn’t even think it is acceptable for him to play u/20.

  • Comment 6, posted at 19.04.08 06:48:41 by KSA Shark © (FJ!ELN!) Reply

    KSA Shark ©Head Coach
     
  • Villie

    He was somewhere in the backs, center I think. And I don’t think I saw him again after he came on.

    Maybe he was hiding behind the padding at the bottom of the posts. :wink:

  • Comment 7, posted at 19.04.08 06:50:03 by KSA Shark © (FJ!ELN!) Reply

    KSA Shark ©Head Coach
     
  • No, KSA… this bit:

    “In the past, ARU rules said boys under the age of 18 could not play against men, and boys were also banned from turning out against opposition players more than two years older than them.
    But the ARU today announced its senior rugby and two-year window policies would become non-mandatory, meaning players under 18 will be allowed to play in open competition if they can satisfy the ARU, parents and coaches they are physically ready.”

  • Comment 8, posted at 19.04.08 08:40:28 by robdylan (LTOFT) Reply
    Competition Winner Administrator
    robdylanHead Coach
     

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