Under-pressure five-eighth James O’Connor has conceded a hamstring twinge hampered his preparation for the first Test against the British and Irish Lions last week.

The Wallabies playmaker, who was well contained at first receiver by the Lions during Australia’s 23-21 loss in Brisbane on Saturday, revealed he had minimal kicking practice in the lead-up to the match after picking up the niggle during the squad’s preparation on the Sunshine Coast.

”It wasn’t ideal preparation for myself. Going into the game, I knew that Christian [Lealiifano] was kicking with Berrick [Barnes] taking the long ones,” O’Connor said.

”But as soon as [Lealiifano] went off I was next off the rank so I put my hand up. It wasn’t my best night but that happens and no excuses, I missed some kicks that I would have liked to have gotten. At the end of the day it could have cost us and it did.”

O’Connor said the second Test was shaping up as the biggest of his life and he wanted to stay in the No. 10 jersey.

”I didn’t get as much quality ball as I would have liked in their 50 so I couldn’t really step up and attack [last weekend],” he said. ”But I thought we mixed our game up quite well and had a lot of pressure alleviated off all the ball players. Obviously losing Christian early isn’t ideal and then Berrick, but Kurtley [Beale] got a fair few touches and so did [Will Genia], and Barnesy at the start had a few good touches and a few nice kicks into different corners.”

The return of Lealiifano at inside centre, plus Beale’s likely inclusion in the starting line-up, will invigorate the Wallabies’ attack. Coach Robbie Deans has a number of options, the most conservative of which is to leave O’Connor at No. 10, while involving Beale in the playmaking from full-back as much as possible.

O’Connor also revealed that he, too, had worn moulded boots in Brisbane. Lions head coach Warren Gatland this week opened fire on the Wallabies for allowing Beale to play on the dewy pitch – and take two crucial kicks that could have won the match for Australia – in something other than screw-in studs.

O’Connor said his good friend and Rebels teammate had moved on from his two missed kicks for goal and was raring to go in Melbourne. ”Wherever he plays Kurtley is going to create a big impact,” he said. ”He’s going to be very handy for us, like you saw when he came on [in Brisbane], he straightened the attack up quite nicely and he was awesome to play with. He always is.”

The 22-year-old was also confident the Wallabies could back-up from the first-Test loss and turn around their fortunes. ”I’m taking this game as the biggest one of my life. Brisbane was huge, it’s an atmosphere I haven’t experienced before,” he said. ” … This game is do or die, we will be up for it. This is our game.”

The original release of this article first appeared on the website of Hangzhou Night Net.

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