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James O'Connor reported to have signed Reds deal
ESPN Staff
June 30, 2014
James O'Connor made a big impression with London Irish in the Aviva Premiership © Getty Images
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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

  • 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.

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.

© ESPN Sports Media Ltd
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