James O'Connor (in blue) in action for Sale Sharks. Photo: Craig Brough/Reuters
James O'Connor (in blue) in action for Sale Sharks. Photo: Craig Brough/Reuters

Wayward Wallaby O'Connor faces 'darkness' in World Cup bid

Time of article published Sep 17, 2018

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SYDNEY – Former Australian golden boy James O'Connor plans to battle his way back into the Wallabies squad for next year's World Cup after facing his “darkness” at a meditation and sensory-deprivation retreat in Iceland.

The wayward star earned the last of his 44 caps in 2013, at the age of just 23, when his Australian Rugby Union contract was torn up after he was prevented from boarding a flight to Bali for being drunk.

His chequered past also includes being arrested and fined in Paris last year during a cocaine bust while playing for Toulon, before a move to Sale Sharks in the English Premiership.

The versatile winger has been working to return from ankle surgery in recent months and spent time in an Icelandic centre which uses sensory deprivation, heat exhaustion and deep states of meditation.

He said it had helped him face “myself and my darkness”.

James O'Connor scores for Sale Sharks. Photo: Jason Cairnduff/Reuters

“Coming to the end of my training camp in Iceland and it has been a humbling and truly enlightening experience,” he said on Instagram late Sunday.

“My reaction to each stimulus has forced me to face myself and my darkness in a way that I have never felt before. I now know who I was but more importantly, I now see who I must become.”

He said the experience had made him realise “a deep desire to play for the Wallabies again”.

“I have learnt from my mistakes and I am now ready. Ready to bleed green and gold. Ready to bleed for my brothers. Ready to bleed for the people. 

“I will be back playing in October and I will have my eye firmly on the World Cup. I will not let myself or anyone down again.”

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To realise his dream O'Connor would need to sign with an Australian Super Rugby club, as players based abroad are generally unable to represent their country.

The exception is those who have pulled on a Wallabies jersey more than 60 times and have held a professional contract with Australian rugby for at least seven years.

Agence France-Presse (AFP)

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