Troubled Australian winger James O Connor is heading to Europe, and is expected to sign with London Irish, after saying he’s quitting the Australian game for the time being.
According to The Australian, O’Connor is in talks with several European clubs, with London Irish, known appropriately as The Exiles, emerging as favourites to sign him.
However the player has said he will only agree to a short-term playing contract, in the hope that the European experience will help him win back his place in the Wallabies squad, and he plans to resume his career down under in due course.
O’Connor lost his place in the national side after a series of off-the-pitch incidents which included an altercation with airline staff at Perth airport which led to him being refused a flight to Bali, and being escorted off the premises.
He is now off the Wallabies’ payroll until at least 2015 and wasn’t considered for the upcoming tour to Europe as part of his punishment.
Wallabies coach Ewen McKenzie has expressed interest in helping the 23-year-old veteran of 44 Tests to get back on track, but in the meantime, O Connor looks likely to join former Wallabies halfback Brian Smith, who now coaches London Irish.
“I am in final discussions with several clubs and will announce the new partnership in coming days” O Connor said told The Australian:
“I believe the move, for a few months, will be beneficial for me to develop in a different environment and help me to be the best rugby player and person that I can be.
“It will also ensure that I continue playing professional rugby immediately and not wait until early in the new year to resume competition.
“I want to give myself every opportunity to get back into the Wallabies side and to represent Australia in the 2015 World Cup.”
CEO of RugbyWA, Mark Sinderberry said:
“We have been informed by James directly that he intends to continue his playing career in Europe for the time being, The Western Force and RugbyWA wish him well in these endeavours.”
“James has made the decision that is right for him at this point in his playing career and the club remains open to recommencing these discussions again in the future if James wishes to return to Australian rugby.”