Rugby Union

Richard Cockerill plays down 'Brendon O'Connor for England' talk

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Football News

Boss Richard Cockerill said it was 'premature' to talk of Brendon O'Connor playing for England after the New Zealander's fine debut in Leicester's 33-20 European Rugby Champions Cup win at home to Stade Francais.

O'Connor, who signed from the Waratahs, scored one of Leicester's four tries in an impressive bonus point win in a tough pool which also includes Munster.

The 26-year-old, who played five times for New Zealand Under-20s and won the IRB World Championship with the Junior All Blacks in 2009, is English qualified due to an English relative and might solve England's problem at open side.

But England were not in O'Connor's thoughts when he signed for Leicester, according to Cockerill, who said: "He plays eight, seven and he can play six as well. He is a very good link man and understands the game very well.

"A couple of turnovers tonight were top class and he will get better, he's only been here a couple of weeks.

"His ambition was to play for Leicester. None of the conversations I had with him were about playing for England. Some Kiwis who can't get in the New Zealand side say 'I'll go and play for England' - but he just want to play for Leicester and enjoy himself.

"He is 26 and very highly rated in New Zealand but it's premature to start talking of him playing for England, even though he's English qualified."

Leicester dominated the match and scored four tries through Vereniki Goneva, Matt Smith, O'Connor and Ben Youngs.

Even though they were under the cosh, Stade Francais showed their class with three tries of their own from Julien Thomas, Paul Williams and Julien Arias.

Cockerill was pleased with the win but admitted it would be tough to get out of a pool which also includes Munster and Treviso.

He added: "I thought we played really well. The set piece was good and I'm delighted we got the extra point and the fact that we denied them one.

"It's a good start but it's going to be tough. Treviso are a good side and hard to beat, certainly at home. We play Munster back to back and also go to Paris. Munster will be key."

Stade, who are languishing in 11th place in the Top 14 after a difficult start due to the World Cup and injuries, know their next game at home to Munster is now a must-win.

Coach Gonzalo Quesada said: "I was impressed with Leicester but we gave them a couple of tries, with the knock-on and the penalty they played quickly.

"I was proud of the team and the spirit but we have to improve and cut out the stupid mistakes."

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