O'Connor's inspiration behind Anzac game fitness race

James O'Connor has revealed his grandfather's incredible story of wartime survival as he clings to the faint prospect of a return from injury for Super Rugby Pacific's Anzac Round.

The hamstrung playmaker visited Brisbane's Gallipoli Barracks military base on Wednesday, wearing the one-off jersey the Reds will sport in next Saturday's home game against the Auckland-based Blues.

The jersey honours the 11 Reds players who died in wartime and the 60 who served in five wars over 125 years, featuring colour patches and imagery specific to relevant Queensland battalions.

Every Australian team will play a New Zealand team in a round of significance for the 64-cap Wallaby O'Connor, who is yet to feature because of a hamstring injury this season.

Reds pair James O’Connor and Zane Nonggorr are hoping to do justice to their Anzac jersey.

O'Connor's grandfather Maurice served with New Zealand’s 7th Anti-Tank Regiment in the Middle East.

He fought in the Battle of Crete and was then injured and taken prisoner while fighting in Africa.

The Italian ship he had boarded was torpedoed by the British, Maurice swimming to safety only to be captured and sent to a number of Italian prisoner-of-war (POW) camps.

“In 1943, he escaped with several other POWs and travelled over the Apennine Mountains," O'Connor said of his grandfather, who lived until he was 93.

"They managed to travel through the German lines to reach British troops."

"We didn't actually find out a lot of what happened until we saw some books that came out with his story.

"The older you get the more you reflect and ... you're very grateful and hopefully it (the jersey) is doing it justice."

O'Connor won't play against the Highlanders on Friday and is bullish about his chances of a return next week, having not featured all season due to injury.

While they appear unlikely, the off-contract 33-year-old is adamant he can still play a key on-field role this season and has not giving up hope of playing on next year.

"Not at all; it's played on my mind, those thoughts," he said.

"I'll be ready when I'm ready but the hunger's there, that's for sure."

Off-contract James O'Connor is yet to feature this season due to a hamstring injury.

O'Connor said his hamstring tendon damage had been "pretty big" and that the recovery time could be as much as 12 weeks, rather than the four that was initially forecast.

He had been training strongly last month but hasn't been part of the main group in recent weeks while watching the side slip from 3-1 to 3-4.

"That's the art of patience that one. Had ankles, torn groin, this one's proving to be interesting," he said of the careful approach needed to decrease the risk of further damage.

"We're not reacting at all; there's a process."

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