James O'Connor believes Reds teammates Hunter Paisami and Jordan Petaia are on track to become the "complete package" in the midfield after the duo played a vital role in Queensland retaining its unbeaten streak at the weekend.
While O'Connor wouldn't be drawn on whether a Paisami-Petaia combination was a path Wallabies coach Dave Rennie should reprise -- the youngsters started the final Test of 2020 together -- the Reds skipper says they have already struck up an instinctive combination.
With Matt To'omua in excellent form for the Rebels, albeit at fly-half, and young Brumbies centre Len Ikitau also impressing, Rennie has a number of options to consider when Australia eventually do take to the field - hopefully against the touring France in late June.
But O'Connor has no doubt Paisami and Petaia are growing each week and says they are putting in the extra training that will see them continue to improve across the second half of Super Rugby AU.
"They play really instinctively off each other, they're really good close friends away from the rugby field and I think it shows on the field, they're almost one mind," O'Connor told reporters on Tuesday.
"One guys goes in for a hit, as you saw when Jordie went in on Tevita [and] Hunter's straight on the ball; when Jordie runs an out line and Hunter runs back against the grain on the short ball, they play really well off each other. They are building a good connection there.
"But in terms of selection for the next level, that's not what I'm focusing on and I don't have anything to do with that. But they're building a great combination and both their games are developing.
"They've both been doing a lot of kicking with Dave Aldred and their building that into their game which I guess is [something] that they felt they needed to improve. So yeah they're becoming the complete package."
Paisami was named man-of-the-match in the Reds' at-times-gritty 26-19 win over the Force, a result that moved them three points clear at the top of Super Rugby AU ahead of this week's trip to Sydney.
The inside centre scored two tries, while NRL convert Suliasi Vunivalu crossed for the Reds' other five-pointer in what was his best game in the 15-man code to date. But O'Connor was more impressed by Petaia's contribution, which perhaps lacked the same glory as his match-winning try a week earlier but was far more sound in its core skill and defensive execution.
"For me Hunter got a lot of the accolades last week and rightly so, he had some huge moments," O'Connor said. "But for me our best performer in the backline was Jordie, [he] did the little things right.
"There were some crucial moments when he carried and he hit some really tough lines and made some big reads in 'D', and his game is improving and he's only going to keep getting better.
"I've said this for a long time, Jordie's got a lot of potential and I'm really excited just to help him unlock that and to see where he can get [to]."
The Reds will head to Sydney as red-hot favourites against a Waratahs team that has managed just a solitary point on the Super Rugby AU ladder so far and is struggling through one of its bleakest periods of the professional era.
Australian rugby's oldest rivalry has a history of extended periods of dominance from one side across Super Rugby, despite the last three contests being split 2-1 in favour of the Reds.
The Queenslanders certainly did a number on the Waratahs in the season opener in Brisbane earlier this year, something O'Connor is keen to repeat as the club sets its sights on creating a dynasty off the back of a testing rebuild that began when Brad Thorn took over as coach.
"Well I think from the moment that I came here I'd seen the rebuilding phases that the guys had been through and the structures that they'd put in place," O'Connor said. "For us, we've spoken about it, we don't just want to win one year or two years, we want to create something really special; we want to bring back that Reds dynasty. That's what we see Australian rugby is all about.
"So for us, if you're performing at club level, then the higher honours come. But no one is really talking about playing Wallabies and getting more guys picked in the team etcetera, it's about winning this competition. This is what we have put forward and what we're striving for each week.
"And it is a really tight competition; each game as you've seen for us has been a couple of points either way apart from the first one against the Tahs. So we're bringing that and we're focusing on the Tahs this week."