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Australian Rugby Union today announced it has reached a mutual agreement to grant winger James O’Connor an early release from his national contract for 2013 and will not offer him a national contract for 2014.
Australian Rugby Union 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 Mr Pulver.
“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.”
The decision to grant O’Connor an early release from his 2013 national contract follows an Australian Rugby Union integrity investigation into an alleged incident at Perth Airport involving the 23-year-old in the early hours of Sunday 15 September.
The agreement is effective immediately and as a result, O’Connor will not be considered for selection for the Qantas Wallabies’ upcoming Spring Tour to England, Ireland, Scotland, Wales and Italy.