O'Connor in talks to return home

Beth Newman Profile
by Beth Newman

James O’Connor is not yet sure what his future holds, but a return to Australia could be in the works.

O’Connor has been vocal in recent months about his desire to return to Australia, and ultimately the Wallabies fold, with his Toulon deal in its last year, and he reiterated that desire on Friday at the Brisbane Tens fan zone.

“I'm talking to clubs in Toulon, Japan, Australia, et cetera,” he said.

“There is that hunger, obviously, to play for the Wallabies and that's always been there.”

O'Connor says he's a new beast these days. Photo: RUGBY.com.au/Stuart WalmsleyBack in Brisbane playing rugby for the first time since leaving Queensland, O’Connor said he felt he was in a better psychological state now, after rediscovering his passion for the sport.

“I've come back, I feel like I'm a new beast, better player,” he said.

“No one teaches you how to deal with certain things once you become a professional athlete so early.

“So, for me, it was just about finding that love for the game again and just enjoying myself and the finer things in life.” - James O'Connor

His former Wallabies teammate Berrick Barnes, playing for Panasonic in Japan, threw his support behind O’Connor, when asked if he deserved another Australian chance.

“He deserves it if he wants to, why wouldn’t he?,” he said.

“He’s 26, it’s not like he’s over the hill.

“He’s still got a lot to offer, I think, and more than anything it’s about James, though, and if he wants to do it. - Berrick Barnes

“If he does, and his motivation’s there, clubs would be silly not to pick him up.”

Whether or not O’Connor leaves Toulon, the end of this season will draw curtains on a glittering Toulon era, with Matt Giteau confirmed to be leaving and Drew Mitchell with seemingly one foot out the door.

“It is a big loss losing Drew and ‘Gits’,” he said.

“I think with Gits on the field we are a different team.

“We've got new players coming over - Benny Barba in particular, if he settles in nicely, he's a great football talent and he'll be a big part of our team here.

His involvement in the weekend’s tournament remains to be seen, after he aggravated an ankle injury in training on Friday morning.

"I'm going to have  a go anyway so we'll see. If I get touched up, I might put my hand up and run off but I'm going to have a go at least," he said.