BRISBANE – Queensland Reds coach Brad Thorn, who froze out two of his players for drug problems, asked “hard questions” of James O’Connor before welcoming him back to the Super Rugby team.
Former New Zealand hatchet man Thorn, known for his uncompromising approach to team discipline at the Reds, cut former Wallabies James Slipper and Karmichael Hunt adrift last season after both had brushes with cocaine.
O’Connor, whose Wallabies contract was torn up in 2013 over repeated discipline lapses, was arrested for cocaine possession in Paris two years ago, and was released by French club Toulon soon after.
While needing a replacement at inside centre following Samu Kerevi’s departure, Thorn admitted to having reservations about bringing the 29-year-old O’Connor back to the Reds, four years after an injury-blighted, one-season stint.
“His name came up; Rugby Australia and James had been in discussion and if he was to come back he was real interested in being back in his home state of Queensland,” Thorn told reporters in Brisbane on Thursday.