Door 'wide open' for O'Connor

2014-06-25 09:00
James O'Connor (AFP)

Melbourne - Exiled back James O'Connor could play 100 Tests for Australia if he 'resurrects' himself on home soil, Wallabies coach Ewen McKenzie has said.

The starting flyhalf against the touring British and Irish Lions last year, O'Connor was cut loose from the Wallabies mid-season after a string of off-field problems, prompting the 44-test utility to head to Europe to continue his playing career.

Australian media have speculated the 23-year-old is set to sign a deal with Super Rugby team Queensland in a bid to break back into the national side.

McKenzie welcomed the prospect of having O'Connor available for next year's World Cup in England.

"The more the merrier as far as I'm concerned," McKenzie said in comments published in The Australian on Wednesday.

"He has got X-factor. He can make things happen in attack. He is a very tidy player. He can do all the fundamentals of the game and he is a very good goal-kicker.

"He is a pretty complete player and very experienced. He's got 40-something tests at his young age. If he keeps the same rate of progress he will easily go over the 100 mark. That's the challenge. He has to resurrect all that."

O'Connor had his national contract torn up before last year's season-ending tour of Europe after he was escorted out of Perth airport by police following a confrontation with airline staff.

Months before, he was photographed with Wallabies team mate Kurtley Beale at a fast food restaurant at four in the morning a few days before a match against the Lions.

Local media later reported that he had also missed a team bus and been late for training during the series, enraging senior team mates.

McKenzie said he had kept the lines of communication open with O'Connor, who signed a one-year deal with Toulon, the French giants said in February.

"We have kept in touch. I caught up with him on the (Wallabies) tour last year," McKenzie said.

"I'm not closing the door on him at all. He wasn't giving us what we needed. He has gone away and is trying to right his wrongs and change his life a bit.

"The conversations I've had he has certainly expressed interest in coming back. It is not going to surprise me if he comes back, but it is up to him to organise it."

Australian Rugby Union (ARU) boss Bill Pulver last week also said O'Connor would be welcomed back to the fold but would not be given any extra money by the ARU if reinstated.

The ARU usually gives nationally-contracted players a "top-up" on their annual salary paid by domestic clubs which can range from a token amount to several hundred thousand dollars.

Read more on:    wallabies  |  james o'connor  |  rugby

What To Read Next


Read News24’s Comments Policy publishes all comments posted on articles provided that they adhere to our Comments Policy. Should you wish to report a comment for editorial review, please do so by clicking the 'Report Comment' button to the right of each comment.

Comment on this story
Comments have been closed for this article.
Live Video Streaming
Video Highlights
Sport Talk

Love 2 Meet
Sport24 on Twitter

Follow Sport24 news on Twitter


Big month in the world of golf as the FedEx Cup concludes on the PGA Tour, the Race to Dubai gathers steam on the European Tour and the Sunshine Tour offers local golfers the chance to bank some cash. Oh, and not forgetting the USA v Europe Ryder Cup showdown at Hazeltine!

Latest blogs

The Springboks have two more Rugby Championship matches - against Australia in Pretoria (October 1) and New Zealand in Durban (October 8). How will the Boks fare in those Tests?

Twitter Follow Sport24 on Twitter

Facebook "Like" Sport24's Facebook page

WIN Enter and win with Sport24!

BlackBerry Stay in the loop on your BlackBerry

RSS Feeds Sport news delivered really simply.

There are new stories on the homepage. Click here to see them.