Australian Rugby
O'Connor 'stood down' by Wallabies
ESPN Staff
September 20, 2013
James O'Connor's Wallabies future is shrouded in uncertainty

James O'Connor will take no further part in The Rugby Championship with Australia coach Ewen McKenzie opting to omit the Wallabies winger from the squad after his latest off-field incident.

The winger was removed from Perth Airport in the early hours of Sunday morning with reports saying he was "intoxicated". The news did little to enamour him to Wallabies boss McKenzie, who spoke at length about the off-field standards he expected from his squad when he took on the role from Robbie Deans.

The Ups and Downs of James O'Connor

  • April 2008: Becomes youngest Super Rugby debutant at 17 when he played off the bench for Western Force against Queensland Reds
  • November 2008: Becomes second youngest Wallabies player when, aged 18, he debuts off the bench against Italy in Padua
  • June 2009: Scores three tries in his Wallabies starting debut against Italy in Canberra
  • April 2011: Confirms deal with Melbourne Rebels from 2012
  • August 2011: Suspended for one match and given a suspended fine after missing the Wallabies' official Rugby World Cup 2011 announcement
  • June 2013: Photographed at a Melbourne fast-food outlet at 4am in the week of the Wallabies' second Test against the British & Irish Lions
  • July 2013: Fails to attend Wallabies team meeting after a loss to the Lions at ANZ Stadium
  • July 2013: Released by Super Rugby side Melbourne despite being a Wallabies regular. The Rebels state the franchise is "entering the next phase of development"
  • September 2013: Removed by Australian Federal Police from Perth Airport after the Wallabies' win against Argentina. AFP reports he was intoxicated.

O'Connor's latest brush with the front pages of the newspapers has seemingly been the last straw for McKenzie, who has acted by removing the winger from his squad for their final two games of the championship with the Wallabies having to travel to South Africa and Argentina. There are no indications of when O'Connor will be allowed to return to the Test mix with the Wallabies saying "no timeframe was being placed on his selection availability".

"We won't be forced into making any decisions around his return until I'm satisfied that he can once again contribute positively to what we are trying to achieve as a group," McKenzie said. "The reality is that representing your country is the ultimate honour but also a week-to-week proposition.

"To be selected, players must consistently do the right things on and off the field. We'll continue to assess James on that basis before any team decisions are made about a return."

The Wallabies will continue to look into the incident on Sunday morning, and further action against O'Connor could yet be taken. McKenzie said: "My views and expectations around team culture and behaviours, along with those of his team-mates, are extremely clear and it's important for the Wallabies and rugby in general to be spoken about positively for the right reasons.

"James and I had a long conversation around those expectations before the tournament commenced. As a result, and separate to the outcomes of the current investigation, James will not be joining us in Sydney tomorrow. We must put the team first without any distractions hindering them during a really tough two-game tour."

And his own team-mates are also less than impressed with O'Connor's conduct, with second-row James Horwill telling Rugby HQ: "We're embarking on a pretty critical moment of Australian rugby, you know a two-week tour of South Africa and Argentina, and it is a big, big moment for this team,.

"And I guess the fact that we're sitting down talking about an off-field incident, no matter who it is, is disappointing."

The news could hinder O'Connor's chances of landing a Super Rugby contract with Western Force. The winger left Melbourne Rebels at the end of last season and is currently without a team for next season.

The Force, his previous side, are reportedly the only franchise keen on landing O'Connor but they recently said they would wait before confirming any signing until the ARU had completed its investigation.

O'Connor's loss is Waratahs winger Peter Betham's gain as he has been called into the Wallabies' 28-man squad for the final two matches of The Rugby Championship.

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