James O'Connor (rugby union)

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James O'Connor
James O'Connor 2011 (2).jpg
Date of birth (1990-07-05) 5 July 1990 (age 28)
Place of birth Southport, Queensland, Australia
Height 1.80 m (5 ft 11 in)
Weight 88 kg (13 st 12 lb)[1]
School St Joseph's Nudgee College
Rugby union career
Position(s) Fullback / Wing / Centre / Fly-half
Amateur team(s)
Years Team Apps (Points)
West Harbour
1 (10)
Senior career
Years Team Apps (Points)
London Irish
Sale Sharks
Correct as of 20 June 2017
Provincial / State sides
Years Team Apps (Points)
2015 Brisbane City ()
Super Rugby
Years Team Apps (Points)
Correct as of 14 June 2015
National team(s)
Years Team Apps (Points)
Australia Schoolboys
Correct as of 15 September 2013
National sevens team(s)
Years Team Comps
2007–2008 Australia

James O'Connor (born 5 July 1990) is an Australian professional rugby union footballer who currently plays for Sale Sharks. He made his international debut for Australia in 2008 at the age of eighteen. He has signed on to play for the Queensland Reds for the 2015 season and previously played for the Western Force and Melbourne Rebels in Super Rugby. In 2013 he played for English Premiership side London Irish, and in the 2014–15 season he moved to France to play in the Top 14 competition for Toulon.

Early life[edit]

O'Connor was born in Australia on the Gold Coast.[2] He lived in Auckland for five years as a child attending Rutherford Primary School. Until the age of eleven when he returned to Australia with his family.[3] He became a boarder at Nudgee College in Brisbane's northern suburbs.[4][5]

In 2006 he suffered a ruptured spleen,[6][7] but went on to be part of the Australian Schools representative team that played against England, Samoa and New Zealand in 2007.[8]

O'Connor's parents are from New Zealand, and his maternal grandparents from South Africa. This, along with his Australian birth, meant he was eligible for all three Tri Nations teams.[9] However, his decision to play for the Wallabies, and debut in 2008, meant he became ineligible to play for the All Blacks or Springboks.[10] He also played for the Australian Sevens in 2008.[8]

Professional career[edit]

O'Connor became the youngest ever Super Rugby debutant at age 17, and the second youngest Wallaby in Australian rugby history at age 18.[9][11] He is a versatile 'utility back'.[8] When asked about his preferred position in 2009, he said, "I feel more comfortable at 12 as a second ball player. I also like 15. You definitely get a lot of space. I just want to get on the field whether it is 10, 12 or 15."[11]

Early years: 2008–2013[edit]

O'Connor with Australia in 2011.

O'Connor joined the Force in 2008, and came off the bench for his first Super 14 cap in a match against the Reds in Week 10 of the 2008 season. He completed the season's final three matches running on at inside centre.[9] Later that year he made his Australian debut, when he came off the bench as replacement fullback against Italy,[11] scoring three tries to help Australia to a 31–8 win.[9] In 2009, O'Connor was the Western Force 'Rookie of the Year' award and also won the Wallabies 'Rookie of the Year'.[12]

In 2012 O'Connor commenced a two-year contract with the Melbourne Rebels. His teammates included Nic Stirzaker, fullback Kurtley Beale, centre Mitch Inman, and English international Danny Cipriani.[13][14] He played at fly-half for the Wallabies in three Tests against the Lions and was included in a five-man leadership group for the team.[15] After continued ill-discipline off the field, the Rebels withdrew from contract extension negotiations at the end of the 2013 Super Rugby season and he was released by the franchise.[16][17]

Following a number of off-field indiscretions on O'Connor's part and a drunken incident at Perth Airport, O'Connor's ARU top-up contract was torn up and was suspended from the remainder of the test season.[citation needed]Following this low, O'Connor was in talks with the Western Force and the Queensland Reds however, nothing eventuated and O'Connor was forced to ply his trade offshore.

European stint: 2013–14[edit]

O'Connor with London Irish in 2014.

On 28 October 2013, O'Connor indicated that he was en route to London to play rugby for "a few months".[18] He was signed by London Irish in October 2013 until the end of the 2013–14 season. He made his debut against Northampton Saints on 3 November and set up the only try that day. He claimed his first try for the club against Worcester Warriors on 4 January 2014, in a match ending 22–9 to the Exiles with O'Connor scoring all 22 points.

2015: Return to Australia[edit]

In 2015, he returned to Super Rugby in a bid to make the Wallabies Rugby World Cup 2015 squad by playing for the Queensland Reds.[19] O'Connor produced solid performances and was arguably one of the higher performers for a poor Queensland outfit, being shifted between fullback, flyhallf and wing in his first appearances before locking down the Red 15 jersey in the last rounds of the season.[20]

Although a part of Wallabies coach Michael Cheika's squads for Wallabies logistics camps throughout the course of the year, O'Connor was not included in the first extended 40-man and subsequently did not feature in any of the squads to follow, including the 2015 Rugby World Cup squad. O'Connor was announced to be part of Brisbane City's squad for their NRC title-defending campaign.

On 13 October, the QRU and Queensland Reds announced that O'Connor would be released from his contract effective immediately, meaning he would not play the 2016 Super Rugby season for the Reds and finish his 2-year contract. It is widely expected that he will return to RC Toulon and be joined by former Super Rugby and Wallabies teammates Matt Giteau, Drew Mitchell and Quade Cooper. O'Connor's release also meant the end of a potential appearance for Brisbane City in the domestic NRC had he sufficiently recovered to play.

2015 and beyond: Return to Europe[edit]

O'Connor preparing a kick for Toulon

In 2015 O'Connor signed with Toulon after failing to make the Australian 2015 Rugby World Cup squad with the Reds. After allegations of Cocaine use and Toulon decided not to renew his contract and thus he left the club at the ending of the season.[21]

In 2017 O'Connor signed with English Premiership club Sale Sharks shortly before the 2017–18 season. This comes amidst rumours he had been declined a contract renewal from Toulon.[22][23]



O'Connor has been involved in a number of off-field controversies, attracting criticism from senior members of the Wallabies.[24] Most recently, in September 2013, he was stood down from the Wallabies following an incident in which he was removed from Perth airport by Australian Federal Police.[25] As a result, O'Connor missed the final two matches of the 2013 Rugby Championship and was released from his Wallabies contract by the Australian Rugby Union.[26] In February 2017 O'Connor was arrested together with former All Blacks player, Ali Williams, in Paris on suspicion of attempting to buy cocaine.[27]


O'Connor was a participant in the second season of reality competition series Australia's Greatest Athlete.[28]


  1. ^ "James O'Connor Player Profile". Western Force. Retrieved 16 June 2011. 
  2. ^ Robinson, Georgina (15 September 2011). "O'Connor schools himself in old memories". Sydney Morning Herald. Fairfax. Retrieved 26 June 2012. 
  3. ^ Kitson, Robert (12 October 2011). "Rugby World Cup 2011: Wallabies play on New Zealand's darkest fears". The Guardian. Guardian News and Media. Retrieved 26 June 2012. 
  4. ^ http://www.james-oconnor.com.au/inside-the-game
  5. ^ http://www.nudgee.com/public/gps-sport/rugby
  6. ^ Badel, Peter (16 June 2009). "O'Connor lucky to be alive". Sunday Telegraph. News Corporation. Retrieved 16 June 2011. 
  7. ^ Growden, Greg (20 August 2009). "AFL past makes teen gun O'Connor a mark man". Sydney Morning Herald. Fairfax. Retrieved 16 June 2011. 
  8. ^ a b c "Inside the Game". James O'Connor. iSports Star. Retrieved 16 June 2011. 
  9. ^ a b c d "Western Force Secure Rising Star O'Connor". Western Force. 19 June 2008. Retrieved 16 June 2011. 
  10. ^ Under IRB regulations, a player becomes permanently committed to a nation upon his first presence in a matchday squad with the country's full national team, "A" national team, or sevens national team. "Regulation 8: Eligibility to Play for National Representative Teams" (PDF). Regulations Relating to the Game. International Rugby Board. 2011. Archived from the original (PDF) on 13 July 2011. Retrieved 12 February 2011.  See especially Regulations 8.1 through 8.4.
  11. ^ a b c Harris, Bret (18 February 2009). "James O'Connor gains weight, experience as force for change from Perth". Foxsports. News. Archived from the original on 30 December 2012. Retrieved 19 June 2013. 
  12. ^ "James O'Connor player profile". Western Force. Retrieved 16 June 2011. 
  13. ^ "Rebels excited by arrival of big guns". ABC News. 23 February 2012. Retrieved 21 April 2012. 
  14. ^ Paxinos, Stathi (19 June 2009). "Rebels can utilise talented trio: Macqueen". Age. Fairfax. Retrieved 19 June 2011. 
  15. ^ Growden, Greg (27 June 2012). "Deans delighted to let McCabe take centre stage". Sydney Morning Herald. Fairfax. Retrieved 12 August 2012. 
  16. ^ Rebels Media Unit (7 July 2013). "Rebels part ways with James O'Connor" (Press release). Melbourne Rebels. Retrieved 7 July 2013. 
  17. ^ "James O'Connor's future in limbo". ESPN Scrum. 7 July 2013. Retrieved 7 July 2013. 
  18. ^ "London-Irish-unveil-James-OConnor-Tuesday". Daily Mail. 28 October 2013. Retrieved 29 October 2013. 
  19. ^ "James O'Connor, former Wallabies player, arrested in Paris allegedly trying to buy cocaine". ABC (Australia). ABC. 26 February 2017. Retrieved 16 November 2017. 
  20. ^ "Queensland Reds release James O'Connor for Europe return". The Australian. The Australian. 14 October 2015. Retrieved 16 November 2017. 
  21. ^ "James O'Connor's Toulon contract won't be renewed amid alleged cocaine possession". ABC (Australia). ABC. 28 February 2017. Retrieved 16 November 2017. 
  22. ^ "James O'Connor's Toulon contract won't be renewed amid alleged cocaine possession". ABC (Australia). ABC. 28 February 2017. Retrieved 16 November 2017. 
  23. ^ "Australia bad boy James O'Connor trying to rebuild his career at Sale as he claims 'other people go out and get drunk... but I get caught!'". Daily Mail Australia. Daily Mail. 19 September 2017. Retrieved 16 November 2017. 
  24. ^ David Polkinghorne (14 July 2013). "Cheesed-off Moore unloads on burger run". The Canberra Times. Retrieved 22 September 2013. 
  25. ^ Bret Harris (20 September 2013). "Wallabies stand down James O'Connor". The Australian. Retrieved 22 September 2013. 
  26. ^ Georgina Robinson, Stathi Paxinos (3 October 2013). "James O'Connor released from Wallaby contract". Fairfax Media. Retrieved 11 October 2013. 
  27. ^ "Former Wallabies star James O'Connor allegedly arrested attempting to buy cocaine: reports". The Sydney Morning Herald. Reuters. 26 February 2017. Retrieved 26 February 2017. 
  28. ^ Knox, David (23 December 2009). "Matthew Mitcham for Australia's Greatest Athlete 2". TV Tonight. Retrieved 13 October 2015. 

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