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James O'Connor wanted behavioural clauses in Rugby Australia deal

The 29-year-old is set for a first Wallabies appearance in six years.

Returning star James O'Connor.
Returning star James O'Connor.

JAMES O’CONNOR INSISTED on including behavioural clauses in his Rugby Australia contract in a bid to prove his new-found maturity.

The 29-year-old has rejoined the Reds in Super Rugby, boosting his hopes of an Australia recall for the Rugby World Cup, and linked up with the Wallabies in South Africa for their Rugby Championship opener.

O’Connor has been a controversial figure in the past and was released by the Reds in 2015 due to “personal issues”.

He was later briefly suspended by Toulon for a drug offence, before signing for Sale Sharks.

However, O’Connor has walked away from a lucrative Premiership deal to return to Queensland and, according to Rugby Australia director of rugby Scott Johnson, he has agreed to a contract that will ensure good behaviour.

O’Connor last played for the Wallabies in September 2013.

“It’s a clean skin from him to say ‘I just want to talk about rugby, if I play up you’ve got the right [to release me] — it’s not going to be an arduous process’,” Johnson said.

“We’re not even talking about [the clauses]. He wanted them in. He wanted complete transparency to protect everyone because he was sincere of his wishes.

“So it’s really good to have a lad forcing it to say, ‘Just believe me ’cause this is what I’m about’ and I go back to [the fact] that he’s a young bloke coming back who just wants to talk about rugby and be seen as a rugby player and we’re there to support him.

“It’s a good statement for players accepting their responsibility for their career so he’s determined this and we’ve supported him on it.”

Johnson added of discussions with O’Connor: “There were a lot of conversations and I needed to understand why he wanted to do this. It certainly wasn’t the money.

We saw the best of him as a young player. We’re hoping the sport allows us to really showcase what we’ve missed the last five or six years.

“I genuinely believe in his sincerity about what he’s trying to achieve. I think it’s good for our sport if he comes back and plays well and is the man he really aspires to be.”

The Wallabies team to face South Africa is set to be announced on Wednesday and O’Connor could yet feature.

“He’ll certainly come into discussions,” Johnson said. “Whether this is the right time for him, we’ll wait and see.”

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