Rugby-O'Connor elects to stay in Australia for another two years


FILE PHOTO: Rugby Union - Premiership - Sale Sharks vs Wasps - AJ Bell Stadium, Sale, Britain - April 6, 2018 Sale Sharks' James O'Connor (C) in action with Wasps' Jake Cooper-Woolley (L) and Danny Cipriani Action Images/Craig Brough/File Photo

SYDNEY (Reuters) - Wallabies playmaker James O'Connor has committed to staying in Australia with the Queensland Reds until the end of the 2023 season after reviving his career over the last two years in Brisbane.

Eight years after he was sacked by Rugby Australia for off-field indiscretions, the former teenage prodigy has inked a deal that will keep him at home until the end of the 2023 Rugby World Cup.

"Queensland is my home. I was born here. I love this state, I love pulling on the maroon jersey, and this is where I want to finish my career," the 30-year-old said in a statement.

"We have a great team now and I think we are going to do some special things. I’m excited to be part of it and to help take them forward.

"I truly feel that we have the group of coaches and players to take Australian rugby back to the top and I want to be part of that more than anything."

O'Connor made his Super Rugby debut at the age of 17 and played his first test a year later but his career hit the skids when he was involved in a drunken incident at Perth airport leading to his Rugby Australia contract being torn up in 2013.

He returned to Queensland in 2019 after stints in France and England and resurrected his international career under Michael Cheika, playing four matches at the last World Cup.

"I’m grateful for the opportunity I was given and like I said when I arrived back, I put my service to this country and the Wallaby jersey above all," O’Connor added. His mature leadership has been a key factor in a similar revival of fortunes for the Reds, who he captained to victory in the Super Rugby AU final earlier this month.

(Reporting by Nick Mulvenney; Editing by Lincoln Feast.)

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