Rugby Australia news 2020, James O’Connor, New Zealand, Chiefs, Super Rugby


James O’Connor’s quest to join the Chiefs next year is over before it began with Rugby Australia blocking his request for a release.

The NZ Herald reports the Wallabies playmaker approached the Chiefs about moving to New Zealand next year, citing a strong desire to test his skills in Super Rugby Aotearoa.

O’Connor’s parents are New Zealanders, and he holds a Kiwi passport after spending the early stages of his life here, so he viewed the potential move to the Chiefs as a homecoming of sorts.

The 30-year-old returned to Australia from the Sale Sharks in 2019, signing a two-and-a-half-year deal with Rugby Australia and the Queensland Reds, having not played for the Wallabies since 2013.

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James O’Connor, Super Rugby Aotearoa, Chiefs, Wallabies


Wallabies playmaker James O’Connor is reportedly eyeing a move across the trans-Tasman next year after he approached a Super Rugby Aotearoa franchise.

According to the NZ Herald’s Liam Napier, O’Connor has been in touch with the Chiefs about a potential move to New Zealand in 2021.

The 30-year-old reportedly met with Wallabies coach Dave Rennie on Friday to convey his desire to join the Chiefs next year.

According to the report, O’Connor is eager to test his capabilities in a more challenging domestic tournament.

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O’Connor signed a two-and-a-half-year deal with Rugby Australia and the Queensland Reds in 2019, and would need to negotiate an exit from his contract if he moved across the Tasman.

Both of his parents are from New Zealand, and he also holds a New Zealand passport.

O’Connor made his Test debut in 2008, and has since represented the Wallabies on 62 occasions.

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After leaving the Super Rugby competition in 2013, O’Connor played professional rugby in England and France before returning to join the Queensland Reds.

A foot injury and an MCL complaint kept him sidelined for a portion of the recent Tri-Nations tournament, where Wallabies were awarded the wooden spoon following consecutive draws against Argentina.

Although he has traditionally played as a centre, O’Connor has reinvented himself as a fly-half since last year’s Rugby World Cup in Japan.

“I’m not going to lie, I came back as a centre and I played in the World Cup and it did frustrate me because I couldn’t get my awe,” O’Connor said in October.

“I felt like I wasn’t involved as much as I would have liked because you want to go out there knowing that you’ve done the job. So I went back to the drawing board with one of my coaches and we sat down and chatted, ‘How can I take my game forward?’

“Funnily enough after round one in Super Rugby that opportunity came, and it was still a big learning curve because I hadn’t played 10 in six years and I was learning on the run.”



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O’Connor has a Kiwi itch but Wallabies looking to lock star down for 2023


After finishing up his Wallabies duties last weekend, O’Connor is on leave but the Reds expect O’Connor will return for duty in January ahead of the Super Rugby AU season which kicks off the following month.

“James is contracted through to the end of 2021 and is a big part of Dave Rennie’s plans for the 2023 Rugby World Cup,” a Rugby Australia spokesman said.

The Queensland Reds have put all their chips in the James O'Connor basket.

The Queensland Reds have put all their chips in the James O’Connor basket.Credit:Getty

O’Connor’s manager David Shand did not return calls.

A source with knowledge of the situation said neither Rugby Australia nor Queensland would agree to any request for O’Connor for a release from the last year of his current contract.

The report about a possible move by O’Connor to New Zealand came just days after a similar report emerged in the French press saying Toulouse were keen to get the ex-Toulon player back to Europe.

Sources told the Herald O’Connor’s camp has not spoken with Toulouse but have held very preliminary discussions with the Chiefs about a possible transfer to Warren Gatland’s team in 2022, not next season.

James O'Connor after Australia's win over the All Blacks in Perth in 2019.

James O’Connor after Australia’s win over the All Blacks in Perth in 2019.Credit:Stu Walmsley/Rugby AU Media

O’Connor’s parents are both from New Zealand and he has spoken to friends and teammates in the past about harbouring a desire to play for a Kiwi team one day.

Perhaps unsurprisingly, the contract chatter has heated up at a time when Rugby Australia and O’Connor are engaging in talks about a new deal that would take the 55-cap utility back through to the 2023 Rugby World Cup.

O’Connor signed a 30-month deal with Rugby Australia and Queensland in July last year after gaining a release from the Sale Sharks to pursue an ambition of playing at the 2019 Rugby World Cup.

Sources with knowledge of the deal – which was significantly boosted by Rugby Australia top-up money – say it was relatively strong, given O’Connor’s history of off-field problems and after several years playing in Europe.

O’Connor returned triumphantly for the Wallabies last year, starring in the record win over New Zealand in Perth, and then in the World Cup.

This year, O’Connor has emerged as the first-choice No.10 for Rennie and with the departure of many other senior Wallabies, the former problem child has become a trusted, senior leader in the side.

Sources say it is this swift rise to prominence in the Wallabies system that is motivating O’Connor’s camp to seek an upgraded salary, commensurate to his importance to Rennie and the Wallabies’ plans.

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Rennie and O’Connor have grown close this year and it is understood Rugby Australia and O’Connor’s agent have already started talking about upgrading his deal, although no offer has been tabled.

Senior officials believe it is unlikely O’Connor would seek to scratch his New Zealand itch in 2022, for two reasons.

The first is O’Connor would likely have to give up on any involvement in the 2023 Rugby World Cup in France, given Rennie’s stated preference to not use the Giteau Law and instead pick players who are playing.

The second is O’Connor would probably only earn about 30 to 40 per cent of his potential topped-up salary with Rugby Australia and the Reds were he to jump ship to the Chiefs.

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Rugby news 2020: James O’Connor, Super Rugby Aotearoa, Chiefs, Wallabies


Wallabies playmaker James O’Connor is reportedly eyeing a move across the trans-Tasman next year after he approached a Super Rugby Aotearoa franchise.

According to the NZ Herald’s Liam Napier, O’Connor has been in touch with the Chiefs about a potential move to New Zealand in 2021.

The 30-year-old reportedly met with Wallabies coach Dave Rennie on Friday to convey his desire to join the Chiefs next year.

According to the report, O’Connor is eager to test his capabilities in a more challenging domestic tournament.

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James O’Connor says improving Wallabies close to ‘epiphany moment’ after draw with Argentina


“We won one out of six,” Rennie said. ‘When you look at it from that perspective, it’s disappointing but we have an understanding of where we’re at and the shifts we need to make. I look forward to seeing how these boys develop and provide pressure to Super Rugby.”

Often players insist their team is close to clicking, but there was palpable frustration in O’Connor’s voice when explaining why the group isn’t as far off the pace as results suggest.

James O’Connor looks on as the Wallabies and Argentina pack a scrum on Saturday. Credit:Getty

“It’s hard because you guys don’t get to see the efforts we put into training and how we’re making gains,” O’Connor said. “Guys who had – not no idea – but literally are just playing off pure instincts, they are learning how to create an extra number, how to play the short side, how to run, where we build pressure.

“A lot of that comes from Dave. We haven’t quite reaped the rewards yet. It’s probably the youngest group we’ve ever had as Wallabies. We’re playing positive rugby. We’re having a crack, we’re having a go. We’re creating stuff. I genuinely believe it is coming.

“With this coaching staff there is a lot of detail and once we fully get that, I believe it’s really going to be an epiphany moment and we’re going to open it up. There’s guys that have grown into this team and I think that young energy is going to start shining. We just need a big Super Rugby season and use this game as a springboard to learn from and keep developing.”

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While a draw isn’t a loss, it may as well have been for the Australians who once again failed to put their opponents to the sword in a tight encounter in wet conditions.

For the seventh year in a row, the Wallabies came away from their last game of a calendar year without a victory. A holiday is in order after a longer year than most.

As players returned to their respective states on Sunday, one player who may take more time to forget about the Pumas performance is Reece Hodge, who unfortunately missed another tough penalty with seconds remaining – as he did in Newcastle a fortnight earlier – that would have all but secured victory. He was perfect with the boot before the final kick.

O’Connor has taken his fair share of clutch kicks in Test rugby and sympathised with Hodge, stressing it was an outside chance to go over given the 50-metre carry in poor conditions.

“If anyone is going to hit that, it’s Hodgey,” O’Connor said. “He’s got a huge boot and he has been hitting them very nicely. We put ourselves in a position to win it, it’s on him. These are just the moments you enjoy, especially as a kicker. If I could kick that far I’d take it but I can’t.”

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O’Connor recalled as Wallabies five-eighth


James O’Connor has been recalled as the Wallabies’ No.10 for Australia’s final Test of the year on Saturday night against Argentina.

Knee and foot injuries have sidelined O’Connor from their past three Bledisloe Cup and Tri Nations outings.

But the 30-year-old will make his comeback as chief playmaker against the Pumas, with the versatile Reece Hodge moving to fullback at the expense of Tom Banks, who will come off the bench.

“It’s great to have James back in the team this weekend. He brings a lot of experience to a young group and has been working really hard to get his body right to be able to get back on the field,” Wallabies coach Dave Rennie said.

Hodge has been a stand-out during his two appearances at five-eighth, man of the match in the Wallabies’ upset win over the All Blacks in Brisbane and going within a whisker of booting Australia to victory over the Pumas in their last-start draw.

But Rennie seemingly sees the 26-year-old as more of a stop-gap than permanent No.10, with O’Connor handed back the keys to the Wallabies backline on Thursday.

In another tick of approval, though, Hodge will start as fullback, meaning he has played every position in the Australian backline except halfback, after Banks failed to produce his dynamic best in his three Tests starts this campaign.

“Reece has done a great job for us at No.10 over the past two games and we’re confident he’ll put in another good performance for us on Saturday night from fullback,” Rennie said.

“The side has worked really hard over the last 10 weeks or so and built a strong connection and I know as a full squad we are really keen to put together a performance that reflects that.”

In the only other change to the run-on XV, Allan Alaalatoa will start at tighthead prop, relegating Taniela Tupou to the bench.

Like O’Connor, lock Lukhan Salakaia-Loto returns after missing the last two Tests with an ankle injury, joining Rob Valetini as other forward cover.

Midfielder Irae Simone has forced his way onto the bench as he aims for a second appearance in the Wallabies jersey.

The All Blacks have one hand and four fingers on the Tri Nations trophy, with the Wallabies needing to beat the Pumas by 101 points to snatch it away.

It’s a mathematical possibility for the Wallabies that surely won’t happen at Bankwest Stadium.





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Tri Nations, Australia Wallabies vs Argentina Pumas: official teams, Dave Rennie, Reece Hodge, Noah Lolesio, James O’Connor


James O’Connor will return to the Wallabies starting XV at fly-half after overcoming a knee injury that kept him out of Australia’s draw with Argentina two weeks ago.

O’Connor’s injury forced coach Dave Rennie to shift Reece Hodge into the No. 10 jersey.

Hodge remains in the side, shifting to fullback and forcing Tom Banks out of the side for Saturday’s clash at Bankwest Stadium.

He makes up the back three which contains Tom Wright – one of the Wallabies’ finest performers since his tryscoring debut in Brisbane – and Marika Koroibete.

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Tri Nations, Australia Wallabies vs Argentina Pumas: Teams, Dave Rennie, Noah Lolesio, James O’Connor, Reece Hodge


Unless records are smashed this week, the All Blacks will be lifting the Tri-Nations trophy and Australia’s drought will continue.

But don’t go trying to tell the Wallabies that Saturday’s meeting with Argentina in anything less than a mere formality.

“We’re taking this game as a must win game for us,” the returning James O’Connor said.

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James O'Connor is fit and ready to go. Picture - Andrew Phan/Wallabies Media.
James O’Connor is fit and ready to go. Picture – Andrew Phan/Wallabies Media.Source: Supplied



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Reece Hodge to start at fullback as James O’Connor return confirmed


Hodge’s shift to fullback will almost certainly mean Rennie has opted to stick with new centre pairing Hunter Paisami and Jordan Petaia.

Paisami had barely played a match at inside centre at club, NRC or Super Rugby level prior to being thrown into the deep end against the All Blacks in Brisbane but he has proved his versatility with the No.12 jersey on.

Reece Hodge will move to fullback to make room for the return of James O’Connor.Credit:Stuart Walmsley/Rugby Australia

Matt To’omua would still be Rennie’s first choice inside centre if he was fit but Paisami will certainly give the Wallabies coach something to think about as he will likely play more rugby alongside Jordan Petaia at the Reds next year.

Up front, the only other change expected is the return of Allan Alaalatoa to the starting XV.

Rennie has rotated between Alaalatoa and Taniela Tupou as the starting tighthead prop but he wasn’t pleased with the latter’s discipline in the 15-15 draw against Argentina.

The remainder of the forward pack that started against the Pumas in Newcastle is expected to line up against the same opponent at Bankwest Stadium but on the bench, Lukhan Salakaia-Loto may make his return from injury.

James O'Connor returns for the final Test of the year.

James O’Connor returns for the final Test of the year.Credit:AP

The Wallabies are out to secure their first win in a season-ending Test since 2013.

“The last time the Wallabies won their last Test match [of the year] was 2013, so to end on a positive note going into 2021, 2022 and the World Cup cycle, it would mean the world for the Wallabies,” loose forward Fraser McReight said on Wednesday. “We want to finish this year on a positive note by winning.”

Meanwhile, the Pumas kept a low profile on Wednesday in the aftermath of a controversial day in which captain Pablo Matera was sacked and two other stars were suspended after racist tweets posted by the players almost a decade ago resurfaced.

Talk has turned to whether the Argentinians may “stand down”, but McReight said the Wallabies wouldn’t entertain that possibility in their preparation.

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“If they stand down, they stand down. If they don’t, they don’t,” McReight said. “We’re just ready and as well prepared as we could be.”

Wallabies fans will already have one eye on next season and confirmation overnight the Australians will face Scotland in November gives every indication World Rugby expect Spring Tours to return to normal in 2021.

All northern and southern hemisphere tours were cancelled this year due to international travel restrictions and that caused a serious hit to the bottom line of several nations.

Rugby Australia are hopeful of hosting France in July next year for a three-Test series which would kick off the second year of Rennie’s tenure.

A full Rugby Championship is then expected to be played before the Spring Tour kicks off in November.

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Reece Hodge to start at fullback as James O’Connor return confirmed


Hodge’s shift to fullback will almost certainly mean Rennie has opted to stick with new centre pairing Hunter Paisami and Jordan Petaia.

Paisami had barely played a match at inside centre at club, NRC or Super Rugby level prior to being thrown into the deep end against the All Blacks in Brisbane but he has proved his versatility with the No.12 jersey on.

Reece Hodge will move to fullback to make room for the return of James O'Connor.

Reece Hodge will move to fullback to make room for the return of James O’Connor.Credit:Stuart Walmsley/Rugby Australia

Matt To’omua would still be Rennie’s first choice inside centre if he was fit but Paisami will certainly give the Wallabies coach something to think about as he will likely play more rugby alongside Jordan Petaia at the Reds next year.

Up front, the only other change expected is the return of Allan Alaalatoa to the starting XV.

Rennie has rotated between Alaalatoa and Taniela Tupou as the starting tighthead prop but he wasn’t pleased with the latter’s discipline in the 15-15 draw against Argentina.

The remainder of the forward pack that started against the Pumas in Newcastle is expected to line up against the same opponent at Bankwest Stadium but on the bench, Lukhan Salakaia-Loto may make his return from injury.

James O'Connor returns for the final Test of the year.

James O’Connor returns for the final Test of the year.Credit:AP

The Wallabies are out to secure their first win in a season-ending Test since 2013.

“The last time the Wallabies won their last Test match [of the year] was 2013, so to end on a positive note going into 2021, 2022 and the World Cup cycle, it would mean the world for the Wallabies,” loose forward Fraser McReight said on Wednesday. “We want to finish this year on a positive note by winning.”

Meanwhile, the Pumas kept a low profile on Wednesday in the aftermath of a controversial day in which captain Pablo Matera was sacked and two other stars were suspended after racist tweets posted by the players almost a decade ago resurfaced.

Talk has turned to whether the Argentinians may “stand down”, but McReight said the Wallabies wouldn’t entertain that possibility in their preparation.

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“If they stand down, they stand down. If they don’t, they don’t,” McReight said. “We’re just ready and as well prepared as we could be.”

Wallabies fans will already have one eye on next season and confirmation overnight the Australians will face Scotland in November gives every indication World Rugby expect Spring Tours to return to normal in 2021.

All northern and southern hemisphere tours were cancelled this year due to international travel restrictions and that caused a serious hit to the bottom line of several nations.

Rugby Australia are hopeful of hosting France in July next year for a three-Test series which would kick off the second year of Rennie’s tenure.

A full Rugby Championship is then expected to be played before the Spring Tour kicks off in November.

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