Rugby Union

James O’Connor suspended by Australia

O'Connor's Australia future in doubt (©GettyImages)
O'Connor's Australia future in doubt (©GettyImages).

James O’Connor has been suspended indefinitely by Australia coach Ewen McKenzie and will not join the Wallabies when they leave for the Rugby Championship Tests in South Africa and Argentina.

This follows an alleged incident at Perth Airport in Western Australia, when the Wallabies star was reportedly prevented from boarding a plane to Bali.

Reports of the incident describe O’Connor as being 'intoxicated'. He was removed from the airport terminal building by police.

The news has angered 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.

McKenzie has now responded by replacing O’Connor in his 28-man squad with wing Peter Betham of the New South Wales Waratahs.

"James O'Connor has been stood down for failing to demonstrate and uphold the behavioural and cultural standards expected within the team," read a post on the Qantas Wallabies official Twitter account.

"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 told ESPN.

"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 will continue to assess James on that basis before any team decisions are made about a return.

"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 [Rugby Championship] commenced.

"There's no doubt since I met with him prior to the start of he made incremental improvements, but he let himself down at the weekend.

"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."

O’Connors own teammates are also less than impressed with his conduct, with second row James Horwill adding: "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 of yet another off-field incident involving O’Connor could hinder his chance of landing a Super Rugby contract with the Western Force.

The winger left the Melbourne rebels at the end of last season and is currently without a team.

Furthermore, O’Connor’s suspension puts his position in the Australian team under threat and makes it likely that he will not face the northern hemisphere sides when the Autumn Internationals take place in November.

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Topics:
James O'Connor
Rugby Union
Australia Rugby

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