Outcast O'Connor joins Exiles

2013-10-29 13:18
James O'Connor (Getty Images)

Sydney - English Premiership club London Irish on Tuesday confirmed that they have signed Australia back James O'Connor until the end of the season.

O'Connor, who hopes to force his way back into the national squad, is in line to make his debut against Northampton on Sunday.

"Having decided that I needed a change from both a personal and playing point of view, I spoke to clubs in Japan and France and concluded that the best way forward for my development was to move to England," said the 23-year-old.

"Given that I've left my support network back in Australia, London Irish offered me an environment that I felt comfortable with."

O'Connor made his Australia debut at the age of 18 in 2008 and has made 44 appearances for his country, featuring at fly-half, centre, wing and full-back.

The former Western Force and Melbourne Rebels man played against the British and Irish Lions earlier this year, notably scoring a try in Australia's third Test defeat.

However, he has developed a reputation as a troublemaker following several brushes with the rugby authorities in recent years.

He was dropped by Australia last month in the wake of an incident at Perth airport that reportedly saw him escorted from the premises for arguing with airline staff.

Australia coach Ewen McKenzie subsequently declared that O'Connor would have to "modify (his) behaviour" if he wanted to resurrect his international career.

Shortly before the second Test of the Lions' tour, O'Connor and team-mate Kurtley Beale were photographed in a fast-food restaurant in Melbourne in the early hours of the morning.

He also has a reputation for poor punctuality, having received a one-game suspension in 2011 for missing Australia's World Cup squad announcement.

"Away from the field, I need to find balance in certain ways. I've been in bit of a bubble in the last six years," O'Connor said.

"I've enjoyed it and wouldn't take anything back; it's been an amazing ride. Every opportunity to pull on that gold jersey has been awesome.

"But I've been protected quite a lot. I've made mistakes and haven't dealt with them in the way I'd like to. This opportunity gives me the opportunity to become my own man and work on that. It's a good environment to do that."

Despite his chequered past, O'Connor's acquisition represents a major coup for Irish, who have lost four of their opening six Premiership games.

Director of rugby Brian Smith said O'Connor was the "most significant signing in the club's history", adding: "His signing is the injection of class we need."

Its Official very excited to announce ive signed with @LIRFC Press down now straight into training cant wait.. Big game this weekend get down watch us take on the Saints :) (via Instagram)

Read more on:    james o'connor  |  rugby

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