O'Connor signs with Reds in late World Cup move
Sydney - Australian bad boy James O'Connor is edging closer to a stunning return to
the Wallabies after the Reds on Tuesday announced a new deal
with the once-exiled utility back.
O'Connor joined Australia's World Cup squad at a training camp in
South Africa last week, some six years after a string of off-field
incidents saw him banished from the Wallabies Test team.
The utility back, who had 44 Test caps before his international
career was derailed, was released by English Premiership club Sale
Sharks this month to pursue his dream of returning to the national side.
The two-and-a-half year Super Rugby deal with the Reds confirmed
on Tuesday in his home state of Queensland paves the way for a potential
Wallabies call-up ahead of the World Cup.
"I just want to say how grateful I am to be given this opportunity again," the 29-year-old said from Johannesburg.
"There’s been a lot of work put in behind the scenes and a lot of
guys have shown faith in me, so all I’m focusing on right now is putting
my best foot forward."
O'Connor was only 23 when the Wallabies tore up his contract in 2013
after he was prevented from boarding a flight from Perth to Bali for
His chequered past also includes being arrested and fined in Paris in
2017 during a cocaine bust while playing for Toulon, before a move to
Sale later that year.
He said the last time he attempted a return it was "too rushed" and he was still suffering mentally.
"I’ve been on a journey ever since to understanding my true self and
how I’m meant to use my privileged position in Rugby," he said.
"I see now that Rugby is a gift and I want my journey back to inspire
possibly other young men out there who may be a little lost in the
world right now."
Rugby Australia director Scott Johnson said it was now time for O'Connor's "Rugby to do the talking".
"He’s matured and understands the leadership roles both on and off the field," he said.
"He’s been honest and transparent throughout this whole process," Johnson added.