Utility back O’Connor signs with Queensland Reds

SYDNEY (AFP) – Australian rugby bad boy James O’Connor is edging closer to a stunning return to the Wallabies after the Queensland Reds yesterday announced a new deal with the once-exiled utility back.

O’Connor joined Australia’s World Cup squad at a training camp in South Africa last week, some six years after a string of off-field incidents saw him banished from the Wallabies Test team.

The utility back, who had 44 Test caps before his international career was derailed, was released by English Premiership club Sale Sharks this month to pursue his dream of returning to the national side.

The two-and-a-half year Super Rugby deal with the Reds confirmed yesterday in his home state of Queensland paves the way for a potential Wallabies call-up ahead of the World Cup.

“I just want to say how grateful I am to be given this opportunity again,” the 29-year-old said from Johannesburg.

“There’s been a lot of work put in behind the scenes and a lot of guys have shown faith in me, so all I’m focussing on right now is putting my best foot forward.”