Australia winger James O’Connor was suspended indefinitely from the national team for failing to meet the behavioral standards of the Wallabies, the Australian Rugby Union said.
“We won’t be forced into making any decisions around his return until I’m satisfied that he can once again contribute positively to what we are trying to achieve as a group,” Australia coach Ewen McKenzie said in an e-mailed statement.
The ARU said it’s continuing to investigate an alleged incident involving O’Connor at Perth International Airport on Sept. 15. O’Connor, 23, was escorted out of a terminal by police after being barred from a flight to Bali because he was intoxicated, the Sydney Morning Herald said. O’Connor wasn’t immediately available for comment, an ARU spokesman said.
O’Connor, who is in negotiations to re-sign with the ARU and Western Force Super Rugby team after being released by the Melbourne Rebels in July, will be replaced by Peter Betham in Australia’s 28-man squad for its Rugby Championship games in South Africa and Argentina.
O’Connor told the ARU that he had been involved in a dispute over seating arrangements at the gate, which led to him and his girlfriend being taken back through customs to rebook on a later flight, Sydney’s Daily Telegraph reported yesterday.
McKenzie said at a news conference today that O’Connor, who made his Australia debut in 2008 at age 18 and has played 44 Tests, had “put his hand up” and said his behavior wasn’t acceptable.
The airport incident, which followed Australia’s win against Argentina in Perth the previous day, came two weeks after O’Connor pledged to improve his behavior following a series of disciplinary issues.
In 2011, he was suspended for a Test match for sleeping through a World Cup squad announcement and was reprimanded in June after being photographed in a fast-food restaurant at 4 a.m. three days before the second Test against the British and Irish Lions. A week later he missed the team bus for a training session in the leadup to the final game against the Lions.
“We’re not not getting the right type of behavior from him,” added McKenzie, who took over from Robbie Deans as Wallabies coach July 9. “There’s no doubt since I met with him prior to the start of the season he’s made incremental improvements, but he let himself down on the weekend. From a behavioral perspective it wasn’t acceptable.”