James O’Connor will serve as the Queensland Reds’ interim captain this Super Rugby AU season in the latest endorsement of the reformed Wallabies bad boy.
The playmaker received a raucous round of applause from teammates when the appointment was announced internally after training on Friday.
The Reds are expected to confirm 30-year-old O’Connor’s appointment on Sunday, in the lead-up to Friday’s season opener against the NSW Waratahs in Brisbane.
He will stand in for injured skipper Liam Wright, who is hopeful of returning for finals but will miss the bulk of the 10-week home and away season with an ankle injury.
It continues a dramatic rise from rugby oblivion for O’Connor, who debuted for the Wallabies as an 18-year-old but twice left Super Rugby for Europe amid drug and alcohol-related mishaps.
The Melbourne Rebels will be without captain Dane Haylett-Petty for their opening match of the season as he continues to work his way back from a concussion sustained last year.https://t.co/waPZIH0d17
— RugbyPass (@RugbyPass) February 12, 2021
Two nights in a Paris jail cell in 2017 proved the line in the sand for the Gold Coast product, who sought a return to Australia and has since re-established himself with the Wallabies and proved his leadership credentials under disciplinarian Reds coach Brad Thorn.
Former All Blacks forward Thorn watched in begrudging admiration as then-teenager O’Connor calmly slotted a conversion of his own try after the siren to beat New Zealand in Hong Kong 11 years ago.
He no sooner had his Rugby Australia contract torn up, while another brief stint with the Reds in 2015 ended in acrimony.
But, six years on, O’Connor will lead a young side boasting a smattering of emerging Wallabies expected to push for a title.
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