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James O'Connor plans Super Rugby return in 2015

Still hoping for a World Cup berth: James O'Connor.

Still hoping for a World Cup berth: James O'Connor. Photo: Ben Rushton

James O'Connor will play out the year in Europe before returning to Australia in a bid to resurrect his Test career.

The 44-Test former Wallaby, who joined English side London Irish last October after having his contract torn up by the Australian Rugby Union, has signed a one-year deal with French Top 14 side Toulon.

But O'Connor has told Wallabies coach Ewen McKenzie he plans to be back in Australia for the start of the 2015 Super Rugby season, his spokesman confirmed.

The exact details of O'Connor's contract with Toulon are still being finalised, but Fairfax Media understands a December return may be on the cards.

He must play the entire 2015 season in Super Rugby in order to be eligible for selection at the World Cup in September that year.

Just which franchise he will play for remains to be seen, but it is understood he is still in contact with Michael Foley at the Force.

O'Connor was poised to join the West Australian side in 2014, after parting ways with the Rebels, but opted to move abroad instead.

It appears the lines of communication have remained open. The former Wallabies back line stalwart has kept in touch with Foley and McKenzie since leaving Australia.

There are no guarantees that O'Connor's mooted return would automatically end in Test selection.

McKenzie will have the full 2014 season to bed down his preferred squad. The likes of powerful Brumbies winger Henry Speight, who will be eligible to play for Australia from September 11 2014, could put a squeeze on numbers.

Quade Cooper, Kurtley Beale and Israel Folau, if fit, will also occupy the back line spots preferred by their contemporary, not to mention winger Nick Cummins and seasoned utility Adam Ashley-Cooper.

The precocious young player, who made his Test debut at 18 and wore the No.10 jersey against the British and Irish Lions in June last year, has developed a reputation as a troublemaker following several brushes with rugby authorities.

The final straw came in September, hours after a Test match, when he was escorted from the terminal at Perth Airport after appearing to be heavily intoxicated and arguing with airline staff.

McKenzie subsequently declared that O'Connor would have to "modify [his] behaviour" if he wanted to resurrect his international career.

He toyed with staying in Australia - re-joining the franchise with which he made his Super Rugby debut was his only option - but moved offshore.

At Toulon he will link up with former Wallabies Matt Giteau and Drew Mitchell as well as other new signings such as Welsh internationals Leigh Halfpenny and Ian Evans.

A spokesman said O'Connor was sad to be leaving London Irish but tremendously grateful to the club's Australian coach Brian Smith, who threw him a lifeline when his Test career ended here.

5 comments so far

  • Does anyone really care? At the moment there are 3 football codes out of season and one code moving toward the business end of theirs. Yet when I look on the sports section for today's news there are 5 league/ Union stories and no local football stories. What's going on SMH? I mean James O'Connor....a narcissistic prat if ever there was one....if I wanted this much Out of season news I'd subscribe to the Tele. I don't and I haven't. Pick it up SMH.

    Date and time
    February 07, 2014, 7:24PM
    • How should O'Connor be able to plan anything? Surely isn't it up to the Super Rugby franchises to decide whether or not they are prepared to spend their money on loose cannon who cannot guarantee that he will do what he is told. What viable business would invest in an employee that brings no guarantee that he will do anything but bring grief to the business? I reckon a year as a labourer, or in the case of Rugby maybe a jackeroo, doing what he is told, might give the clubs an indication that he could be relied on.

      Date and time
      February 07, 2014, 7:28PM
      • This is about the most unimportant rugby news I will read this year. An adequate player who for what ever reason remains on the rescue Aussie rugby list. If he was in NZ he would have been well forgotten by now.

        Date and time
        February 07, 2014, 8:15PM
        • So O'Connor hopes to be involved in the 2015 RWC,let's hope he finds a seat with a good view.

          Circling buzzard
          Date and time
          February 07, 2014, 8:38PM
          • I'm sure there will be plenty of fans ready to buy him a glass or six to celebrate...

            Date and time
            February 07, 2014, 9:20PM

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