Australia

O'Connor's Exile confirmed

Tue, 29 Oct 2013 10:58
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London Irish offered me an environment that I felt comfortable with
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London Irish confirmed that the club has signed Australian international James O'Connor on a short-term deal until the end of the season.

The 23-year-old has played 44 Tests for the Wallabies and is expected to make his Premiership debut this weekend at Madejski Stadium when London Irish plays Northampton Saints.

The versatile back became the second youngest Wallaby in Australian history when he made his Test debut against Italy in 2008.

He made his first start against the Barbarians at Wembley later that year.

O'Connor started his Super Rugby career with the Perth based Western Force in 2008, making 38 appearances and scoring 306 points, before signing for Melbourne Rebels.

He has spent the last two seasons in the Victorian capital scoring 175 points in 21 appearances.

In June of this year O'Connor played in the three Test matches against the British and Irish Lions, scoring a try in the third Test in Sydney.

His last appearance for Australia was in the Rugby Championship victory over Argentina in September - after which he was axed over his ongoing alcohol-related misdemeanours.

He was also part of the Australia squad that finished third in the 2011 IRB World Cup in New Zealand.

"James is a world-class player and a terrific kid and it is fantastic to have him at London Irish," London Irish Director of Rugby Brian Smith said.

"He will bring a huge amount of experience to our group and will fit in well to our style of play. He is fit and ready to play so the coaching group will get him up to date on everything and hopefully he'll be ready to go this weekend."

Commenting on his decision to join London Irish, O'Connor said: "Having decided that I needed a change from both a personal and playing point of view, I spoke to clubs in Japan and France, and concluded that the best way forward for my development was to move to England.

"Given that I've left my support network back in Australia, London Irish offered me an environment that I felt comfortable with. The club is renowned as a welcoming, family club throughout the world, it has a highly regarded Australian Director of Rugby in Brian Smith and plays a style of rugby that appeals to me.

"In England and Wales they play a very high-pressured, territory based game. I thoroughly believe I can improve elements of my game by playing in the Premiership."

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