10 Dec, 12:23
Ireland's John Lacey will referee his first ever RBS 6 Nations match in February, while Alain Rolland is also included in the Elite Panel in what is his last season.
The Galway man suffered spinal concussion in the 2006 EDF Energy Cup final, just three weeks after winning his twelfth and most recent Ireland cap as a replacement in the Triple Crown-clinching win over England at Twickenham.
After a long recovery, during which David Wallace became Ireland's first choice openside, O'Connor is now back and itching to pull on the Irish shirt again.
Ahead of tonight's Churchill Cup opener in Exeter, he said: "I'm looking forward to playing. It gives me a real focus to get a run of games together so hopefully I can get some form going and finish the season happily.
"I had a serious injury and nearly had to retire from the game - I don't think a lot of people realise that - and only got back playing at Christmas.
"I had to get over the mental issues to start playing again but I am happy with where I am now compared to this time last year. You just have to keep setting yourselves goals.
"If I had gone on the senior tour to Argentina (this week) I might have ended up sitting on the bench, so this way I get to play rugby. You have to look on the bright side," admitted the 27-year-old, who was released to play for Ireland 'A' after failing to gain a place in Wasps match-day squad for tomorrow's Heineken Cup final.
Michael Bradley's 'A' team should have too much class for Canada but O'Connor, who will be playing under Bradley at Connacht next season, warns that the powerfully-built Canadians will provide a considerable test.
"We will give the Canadians the respect they deserve. We have been watching a few tapes of their autumn internationals. They are a powerful side and it will be a tough game."