James O'Connor in line to start at fly-half against the British and Irish Lions

Last Updated: 20/05/13 4:23pm

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Australia coach Robbie Deans has hinted that James O'Connor is set to be handed the No 10 shirt to take on the British and Irish Lions.

With Quade Cooper omitted from the initial 25-strong squad revealed by Deans - and Kurtley Beale currently having taken a break from the game for personal issues - O'Connor is the favourite to fill the playmaker role.

Christian Lealiifano and Berrick Barnes are other possible contenders for the fly-half role, while Deans could still call up Cooper when he adds six more players to his squad on June 11.

However Deans is likely to give O'Connor, who has played across the backline since making his Test debut as an 18-year-old against Italy.

"We believe he caters for our need," said Deans.

Cooper left out of Australia squad

"The last time he played for us, and obviously he wasn't available at any stage last year, he played at No 10 against Wales at the end of 2011 and did a very good job.

Opportunities

"In the outings he's had he's got the components we are looking for.

"He's clearly a bloke who traumatises defences, he keeps the attack very square, which provides opportunities for the channels (runners) around him."

O'Connor has started just one Test at fly-half - against Wales back in December 2011 - however he is ready to lead from the front if needed.

"Nothing's set in stone - it's still six weeks until the first Lions game," he said.

"But I've played No 10 all my life so I'm pretty comfortable there if I get given the opportunity.

"If I can put on that gold jersey again, it's going to be massive.

"I missed last year through injury and there are a lot of good players playing this year who are in flying form.

"But if the opportunity comes, I'm going to take it with both hands."

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