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James O'Connor eyes Wallaby jumper as he prepares for injury return

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James O'Connor's last game for the Wallabies in 2013.

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James O’Connor has again reiterated his desire to win back a Wallabies jumper.

O’Connor has not played for Australia since 2013 and hasn’t been based in Australia since 2015.

The versatile back has battled an ankle problem since joining Premiership side Sale Sharks but is set for a return this weekend against the Newcastle Falcons.

“When you are at this sort of level you want to be playing rugby, especially with a World Cup coming up,” the 28-year-old told BBC Sport.

“I have been on a journey. A lot of my goals are personal, but once I get out on the field I know I will be a different player.

“That’s where all my energy has gone towards. It’s not gone towards having a good time and this or that, my focus is on playing rugby and I want to do that at the top level.”

O’Connor won his first international cap in 2008 as an 18-year-old and went on to win 43 more caps before falling out of favour with head coach Robbie Deans.

Rugby Australia tore up his contract in 2013 after a number of incidents and he headed overseas for his first Premiership stint.

He returned to the Reds in 2015 in hopes of a late World Cup push but wasn’t included in Michael Cheika’s squad.

O’Connor moved to French glamour club Toulon later that year, and played there until cocaine use allegations arose in 2017.

He told BBC Rugby about his stint in France.

“It was the first time I was away from home; a new language, a new culture and a new team”.

“It can be a tough environment for a young guy, so I really had to develop as a person.”

Following ankle surgery and rehab, O’Connor now feels he is ready to go.

“It’s been tough to be fair. I express myself on the field and I have a certain skill-set, and being injured limits that,” he said.

“So you can get frustrated and it can drain you.”

The Wallabies will be trying to avoid a three-match losing streak and a Rugby Championship wooden spoon tomorrow when they take on the Pumas in Salta.


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