James O'Connor reported to have signed Reds deal
June 30, 2014
James O'Connor made a big impression with London Irish in the Aviva Premiership © Getty Images
James O'Connor has agreed a two-year deal to play for Queensland Reds in Super Rugby, and to push his claim for a Wallabies Test berth ahead of the 2015 Rugby World Cup, News Corp has reported, saying the deal will be confirmed once he returns home after a Mediterranean holiday.
The Ups and Downs of James O'Connor
The Reds refused on Tuesday to confirm the report, coach Richard Graham saying "it's all still speculation".
"I've said it before, he's a good footballer. There's no doubt about that. We understand the quality of footballer he is and in terms of recruitment, we've been really disciplined. Jim Carmichael has a really strong strategy that we have remained disciplined to as an organisation. When Jim feels it's right, he'll reveal that."
O'Connor departed Australia in September 2013, after the Australian Rugby Union had cancelled his contract following an alcohol-related incident at Perth airport. That was the latest in a series of high-profile off-field incidents involving the player, whom his previous club, Melbourne Rebels, had sacked with their coach, Damien Hill, saying "decisions are made based on behaviours and performances when those things are being reviewed, and that's all that's happened".
O'Connor has since played for London Irish in the Aviva Premiership in England, proving his talent remains undiminished without claiming headlines for off-field behaviour. He has also played for a World XV against the Springboks, and signed a six-month deal to play for Heineken Cup and Top 14 champions Toulon through the remainder of the year.
News Corp reported that Queensland Rugby Union chief executive Jim Carmichael believes the strong team culture of the Reds, with 100-game stalwarts Will Genia, Quade Cooper, James Horwill and Greg Holmes in the ranks, "can deliver the supportive environment to get the best out of O'Connor" that the less well established Western Force and Rebels could not.
Queensland recently have lost experienced backline Reds Mike Harris, Rod Davies and Dom Shipperley from their roster for next season, as well as exciting youngster Aidan Toua, leading to speculation that they had let the players go to relieve the salary cap in order to sign O'Connor.
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