James O'Connor 'intoxicated', barred from flight
September 19, 2013
James O'Connor reportedly told Australian Rugby Union officials that he was not drunk © Getty Images
James O'Connor was barred from taking an international flight on Sunday because he was considered by airport and airline staff to have been intoxicated.
The 44-Test winger was not allowed to board his scheduled flight to Bali after the Wallabies' win over Argentina on Saturday, and he was subsequently escorted from the terminal by Australian Federal Police (AFP) officers.
The AFP released a statement saying that officers "spoke to a 23-year-old man at Perth International Airport in the early hours of the 15th of September [Sunday]".
"It is alleged the man was intoxicated," the AFP said in the statement. "The airline the man was booked to travel with made a decision not to allow him to board the aircraft. The AFP subsequently escorted the man from the terminal."
The Ups and Downs of James O'Connor
Most of the Wallabies squad are understood to have flown back to their home states on Sunday morning ahead of the second bye week in The Rugby Championship, while O'Connor was booked on an Air Asia flight to Bali with his girlfriend. The Wallabies reassemble in Sydney on Saturday, when they fly out of Australia for a two-week tour of Argentina and South Africa.
The Australian Rugby Union (ARU) released a statement on Thursday to say it had begun an ongoing investigation even though officials "had not received any formal notification, complaints or reports from police, airline or security officials".
News Limited, meanwhile, reported that ARU officials were satisfied with O'Connor's version of events relayed from Bali. O'Connor reportedly told the ARU he had been involved in a dispute over seating arrangements at the gate, which led to him and his girlfriend being taken back through customs to re-book seats on a later flight. O'Connor reportedly denied being drunk and there was no mention of the AFP.
O'Connor has been involved in several controversies in recent times. He was dumped from Super Rugby club Melbourne Rebels earlier this year, was photographed at 4am at a fast-food outlet in the lead up to the second British & Irish Lions Test, and has been disciplined or cut from the Test team for missing team meetings.
O'Connor, 23, acknowledged when Ewen McKenzie was named Wallabies coach that he needed to turn over a new leaf, while McKenzie said he had made perfectly clear to the players his expectations regarding discipline.
"There's definitely things that I already have changed and am in the process of doing, personal things," O'Connor said after McKenzie's appointment in July. "I don't play rugby to be talked about off the field. I'm playing rugby because I love it and that's what I want to be doing, playing for my country."
O'Connor, currently without a Super Rugby club, has been linked to a move back to Perth-based Western Force, for whom he first came to prominence.