James O’Connor to join Wallabies in “train-only” role
SYDNEY (AP) — James O’Connor will practice with the Wallabies ahead of their Rugby Championship opener against South Africa, although he’s yet to sign with an Australian club on his return from England.
The 44-test veteran was due to fly out Monday to join the Australian squad in South Africa as they prepare for the match against the Springboks on July 21. Rugby Australia said the 29-year-old utility back would join the squad on a “train-only” basis.
O’Connor was called on after winger Marika Koroibete was allowed to remain in Australia awaiting the birth of his second child.
Coach Michael Chieka said Koroibete “should join us later in the week but mother nature is in charge here, so until then it’s a good opportunity for James to integrate into the team playing principles.”
O’Connor has most recently been playing for the Sale club in England. He hopes to return to Australia ahead of this year’s World Cup and is in contract talks with the Queensland Reds.
His international career was hampered by off-field controversies, including an arrest in Perth in 2013 which briefly cost him his Australian contract.
Meanwhile, backrower David Pocock will continue his recovery from a calf muscle injury with the squad in South Africa.
“For David, we really want to do some specific rehab work and it’s just better to have him with us at this stage to ensure we get his return to play exactly right,” Cheika said.