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James O'Connor signs with Toulon, putting World Cup chances in jeopardy

James O'Connor is heading to the French top flight.

James O'Connor is heading to the French top flight. Photo: Getty Images

Reports in France claim big-spending Top 14 side Toulon have agreed a one-year deal with sacked Wallabies star James O'Connor.

The news was reportedly announced by the club’s president Mourad Boudjellal on Thursday with the 23-year-old Queenslander to complete this season with London Irish before linking up with Toulon for the start of the 2014/2015 season.

Should O'Connor make the switch and play the full season, it would almost certainly rule him out of the Rugby World Cup which takes place in England next September.

A move to Toulon, however, could jeopardise O'Connor's prospects of playing in the 2015 World Cup as Wallabies coach Ewen McKenzie has gone on record as saying that any player who wants to be considered must play for an Australian province.

O'Connor has developed a reputation as a troublemaker following several brushes with the rugby authorities in recent years.

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

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

O'Connor moved to English Premiership outfit after the Wallabies' 2-1 defeat to the British and Irish Lions last year after his Australian contract was terminated as a result of numerous off-field incidents.

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

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.

11 comments so far

  • James who? Oh, that guy who likes a drink, the Toulon region should suit him well then...

    Commenter
    Duke
    Date and time
    February 07, 2014, 12:44AM
    • Nonsense, part of the media myth. He's a problem at team and management levels - a real pity as he is talented. So much to offer but what to give? We are already doing well without him

      Commenter
      Rob
      Date and time
      February 07, 2014, 1:10AM
      • Spot on. Who would he replace ? All current incumbents add more value to the team than JOC. I don't think he has the ability to change from being a prat so cheerio buddy. You had your chance. We don't need you and in particular we don't need your disruptive influence. Don't call us, we'll call you, not.

        Commenter
        johnny-boy
        Date and time
        February 07, 2014, 4:09PM
    • Despite their extravagant spending (Tana Umaga - SBW etc) - has Toulon EVER got any silverware?

      Commenter
      Alan
      Date and time
      February 07, 2014, 1:25AM
      • They're the Heineken Cup holders!

        Commenter
        eh?
        Date and time
        February 07, 2014, 9:36AM
    • Who cares....Australia dont need him

      Commenter
      Occyman
      Date and time
      February 07, 2014, 7:41AM
      • His indiscretions were as bad as Quade Cooper or Kurtley Beale but he got the worst results. If I was him I wouldn't be looking to play for Australia as well but would want to show the selectors up for their decisions. Don't get me wrong I thought his behaviour was poor just that there was inconsistency with punishment as he was associated with Deans. I like Macenzie but he is inconsistent in his dealings with people especially with Quade Cooper.

        Commenter
        Another View
        Date and time
        February 07, 2014, 11:11AM
    • This is fantastic news for Oz rugby, he could possibly stay at Toulon for a good few years, they pay well.

      Commenter
      Donaldo
      Date and time
      February 07, 2014, 10:04AM
      • I wish JC well at Toulon and I think he has made a sensible decision for once.

        I suspect he has assessed the emerging depth of talent and commitment of Australia-based players competing for his preferred positions and come to the conclusion he may not make the World Cup team anyway.

        So the decision is pretty easy for him. A 100% chance of making a lot of money in Toulon, or a 100% chance of making a lot less money in Australia (coupled with a slight chance he might make it to the World Cup).

        Commenter
        Cynic
        Date and time
        February 07, 2014, 10:48AM
        • Oh how quickly we forget! Remember Hong Kong? He scored try then converted & Wallabires defeated the mighty ABs. Maybe better mentoring by ex-Wallaby greats might have helped James' maturity. We need to work on developing character as well as muscles to produce true champions.

          Commenter
          Tight five
          Date and time
          February 07, 2014, 2:31PM

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          ENG 0vs WAL 0 05:00Twic
          AUS 0vs URU 0 21:00Villa
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