Rugby: O'Connor weighs World Cup options

James O'Connor.
James O'Connor.

Sacked Wallaby James O'Connor has indicated he's still considering a bid to play for Australia at the 2015 Rugby World Cup despite reports he's agreed to join French club Toulon next season.

O'Connor, who is with the London Irish club in England, insists Toulon head coach Bernard Laporte was premature in announcing he'd agreed to join the defending European champions in the 2014-15 season.

He would be linking with fellow Wallaby exile Matt Giteau at Toulon.

Wallabies coach Ewen McKenzie has made it clear there'll be no bending of the Australian Rugby Union rule that players must be playing in Australia for Super rugby sides to be picked for the Wallabies.

Playing a full season for Toulon would prevent O'Connor from playing a Super rugby season in early 2015 in time to earn Wallabies selection for the World Cup.

The 23-year-old has yet to experience a win in four matches at fullback for London Irish since arriving last month after his Wallaby contract was torn up.

"I obviously have some decisions to make in terms of the World Cup," O'Connor told getreading.co.uk this week. "I have been told I have to have been playing in [Super rugby] for a season [to be selected for Australia] at the World Cup.

"That complicates things a bit. But I'm loving my time here and the players have been great to me."

London Irish's director of rugby Brian Smith, a former Wallaby, was also adamant no deal had been completed with Toulon.

"James hasn't signed for anyone.

"He's got an offer from us, but I don't know what French offers he's got."

Sponsor Mick Crossan's consortium took over London Irish a fortnight ago, promising to invest in the playing staff and Crossan, who is now club president, told the Rugby Paper he wants O'Connor to spearhead the club's planned resurgence. "I wouldn't like to see James O'Connor go," he said.

"I've met him on quite a few occasions now and he's a class act on and off the field who I'd like to help spearhead our march back to where we want to be."

While O'Connor left Australian rugby after losing his Wallaby contract for off-field discipline issues, Crossan had only good things to say about his behaviour.

"He turned 23 in July and all the reports you heard was that you've got this young lad who was off the rails. He's far from that.

"My son's 23 and James has done nothing different occasionally to what my son does most weekends.

"After his first game against Northampton, James attended our post-match Q&A and he held the whole crowd.

"Whether people were seven or 70, he had time for them all and he made sure he spoke to every one of them.

"This lad is very special ... It's about building a community [at London Irish] and he can be at the forefront."

- AAP

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