James O'Connor linked with Toulon
December 23, 2013
James O'Connor is reportedly set to move clubs again © Getty Images
James O'Connor will join former Wallabies team-mates Matt Giteau and Drew Mitchell at Toulon, potentially ruling himself out of Wallabies Rugby World Cup 2015 contention, French sports newspaper L'Équipe has reported.
O'Connor signed a short-term contract with Aviva Premiership club London Irish, for whom he has started four league games at fullback, after the Australian Rugby Union sacked him from the Wallabies and cancelled his contract following an incident at Perth Airport, and L'Equipe reported on Sunday that his move to Toulon was a "certainty, even if the duration of the contract is not yet known".
O'Connor joined the Exiles after he was barred from taking an international flight from Perth to Bali on September 22, after the Wallabies had defeated Argentina in The Rugby Championship, because he was considered by airport and airline staff to have been intoxicated. He was subsequently escorted from the terminal by Australian Federal Police officers.
O'Connor was photographed in Toulon at the beginning of November, days after joining London Irish, when he was reported to have met club president Mourad Boudjellal. His move, if confirmed, will see the Heineken Cup champions have a dynamic three-way playmaking set-up including Giteau and Jonny Wilkinson, who was reported recently to want to play one more year on the French Mediterranean.
O'Connor has spoken of his desire to play again for Australia, but Wallabies coach Ewen McKenzie says he will maintain strict selection guidelines by which qualified players overseas must be registered for the 2015 Super Rugby season by late 2014, and be back home in time to play the full season, if they are to be eligible for his Rugby World Cup consideration.
McKenzie wants his players playing a full Super season, or close to it, and he won't relent even if they sneak into provincial sides after June if spots open up through injury replacement grounds.
"The guys who want to be playing World Cup have to be playing Super Rugby in 2015," McKenzie said. "There's a lot of people talking about it, but in the end you have to do something about it. You can't just cherry-pick on the way through and grab all the trinkets on the way. It has to be a complete investment [in Australian rugby]."
© ESPN Sports Media Ltd
Huw Richards profiles French forward Walter Spanghero, a man who even rugby's hard men thought was a tough nut
"To be part of the Commonwealth Games, I'd wear anything. I'd wear a clown suit." Tom Hamilton talks to Scotland's Sean Lamont
Scrum Sevens looks back at how rugby has fared in both the early Olympics and the past four Commonwealth Games
"Cheika's been phenomenal. He gives you an incredible level of mental strength." Tom Hamilton talks to Waratahs star Jacques Potgieter