James O’Connor has been released from his Australian Rugby Union contract just over three months since he started as fly-half for his country in the first two tests against the British and Irish Lions.
This means that the young Australian will not feature when Australia travel to the Northern Hemisphere to take on the likes of England, Ireland, Scotland, Wales and Italy.
The verdict follows the latest incident involving O’Connor, which saw him removed from Perth airport whilst trying to board a flight to Bali for being intoxicated. These actions have led head coach, Ewen McKenzie, to suspend him indefinitely from the national team.
His actions at the airport added to the growing list of indiscretions that the 23 year old has been involved in this year. A most notable off-field incident involved O’Connor being pictured with his team-mate Kurtley Beale at a fast food outlet in the early hours of the morning in the build up to the Wallabies’ Test series against the Lions.
The ARU announced today that O’Connor, who has won 44 caps for Australia, had accepted an early release from his contract and that he would not be offered a new one for the 2014 season. The Australian back is also yet to secure a Super Rugby contract for next season after he was let go by the Melbourne Rebels at the end of last season.
"The Australian Rugby Union and I have mutually agreed to put the past behind us and move forward from today," O'Connor’s said in a statement published by the Telegraph.
"As a professional, I am focused in developing as a person and as an athlete and intend to do everything possible to put myself in the best environment to do that.
"I want to apologise for any issues that I have caused and I want express my respect for my teammates, the Wallabies and the jumper. There is nothing more important and rewarding to me than representing my country.
"I want to say again that I do appreciate the impact that some of my actions have had on my team and the sport in general. I recognise that given my actions and the circumstances it is best for the team and myself to go in different directions in the short term.
"I remain focused on earning my place back with the Wallabies and will be looking for the right opportunity to do this."
It has also been mentioned that perhaps O’Connor may now leave Australian rugby for sometime to pursue other interests abroad to get his career back on track. However, Bill Pulver, ARU Chief Executive, has said that the Australian back must play Super Rugby in order to represent Australia.
"If James chooses to stay in Australia and play Super Rugby, he would be eligible to play for the Wallabies in 2014, as long as his behaviour was consistent with our expectations and if his form warranted selection," said Pulver.
"We appreciate James' contribution to Australian Rugby and his unique skill and flair when playing, but have determined that James must make some changes with respect to his off-field responsibilities and ensure that this approach is consistent with the values of our game.
"We pride ourselves on living the values of Rugby - passion, integrity, discipline, respect and teamwork. James has accepted these values need to be consistently upheld on and off the field at all times.
"We are hopeful that James will stay in Australian Rugby and play in next year's Super Rugby competition and that he sees this as an opportunity to re-focus his attitude and invest in all aspects of his professional Rugby career.
"We would consider reviewing our position regarding a national contract for 2015 and beyond if we believe James' behaviour is consistent with the values associated with being a Wallaby.
"This has been a difficult decision for all parties. James is a player with huge potential and someone who has the capacity to make a significant long-term contribution to our game - but after assessing the evidence of numerous incidents, we have an obligation to uphold the values of our game and James understands that."
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