The Australian Rugby Union (ARU) has reached a mutual agreement to grant James O’Connor an early release from his national contract for 2013 and will not offer him a national contract for 2014.
The decision to grant O’Connor an early release from his national contract follows an ARU integrity investigation into an alleged incident at Perth Airport involving the 23-year-old in the early hours of Sunday, September 15.
The agreement is effective immediately and as a result, O’Connor will not be considered for selection for the Wallabies’ upcoming tour to England, Ireland, Scotland, Wales and Italy.
ARU Chief Executive Officer, Bill Pulver, said the decision will still allow O’Connor to negotiate a Super Rugby contract.
“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.
The incident at Perth airport came as the latest in a line of off-field controversies, and Pulver said that despite his talent, he would have to make some major changes to his behaviour in order to be considered for selection again.
“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,” he added.