While once hot property in the Australian rugby market, James O’Connor has found himself in no-man’s land after being sacked by the Rebels.
James O’Connor has had some controversy surrounding his career as of late, following off-the-field misdemeanours and the underwhelming performance against the British and Irish Lions. That, in combination with his departure from the Rebels, has put an undesirable aura around the 23-year old.
O’Connor has reportedly been in talks with his former franchise, the Force, after being declined by the Brumbies, Waratahs and Reds.
The Force’s management staffs were in discussion in O’Connor, but have indicated that no misbehaviour will be accepted if he were to join the Perth-based side.
Force loose forward Ben McCalman explained that while O’Connor is a young talent, the team cannot be compromised.
“He [O’Connor] was very successful when he was here. He’s a great player to have on the field, very skilful, a lot of natural talent,” McCalman said.
“In saying that, we’ve worked very hard in the last year to set values and standards through Matty Hodgson and down through the senior players.
“We’d love to have him here but not at the cost of compromising what we’ve already set.
“He has a few things that he can sort out and we’ll see how things turn out.
“There’s a lot of hard work been put in place the last year especially through the captain leading down to the players.
“There’s obviously a few things that he [O’Connor] would need to work on to be here but hopefully he sorts those things out, and if he ends up here that would be great.
“He’s certainly a player that brings a lot of value to the team when he’s playing well and when his off-field situations are going well.
“I’m not sure where the [franchise] focus is at the moment regarding him but hopefully he comes into the mix at some stage. He’s certainly a player that brings a lot of value to a team.”
Force coach Michael Foley echoed these sentiments, saying that if O’Connor were to join the team, he’d have to abide by their rules.
“Any sort of education process becomes a lot easier when the person being educated actually accepts that there’s a requirement to do so,” Foley said.
“That’s the biggest challenge.
“We do know that a couple of the Wallaby boys were out at 04.00 in the morning at a burger joint.
“We do know a couple of Wallabies missed the team bus for training.
“And we do know a couple of Wallabies missed the team meeting on the Sunday after the [Lions] Test match.
“All of those things are very simple things that, in my opinion, wouldn’t be acceptable here.
“But again, that’s not imposing something on somebody. It’s getting them to recognise why those things are important to the team.
“We can’t be negotiable on those things.
“It’s not a matter of hitting someone over the head with a stick. It’s a matter of saying, ‘this is where we’re headed. How does it suit you?’.”