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O’Connor Finally Confirmed as a Red

James O’Connor’s journey back into the Wallabies set-up has had a major boost

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(Photo by Bryn Lennon/Getty Images)

James O’Connor has signed a two-and-a-half-year deal with the Queensland Reds and Rugby Australia it has been confirmed.

The move has been in the pipeline for quite some time now and with it being announced O’Connor can now officially play for the Wallabies if selected.

Having last turned out for the Aussies in 2013 before off-field issues halted his international career, O’Connor is happy to be given the chance to impress once more.

“I just want to say how grateful I am to be given this opportunity again. There’s been a lot of work put in behind the scenes and a lot of guys have shown faith in me, so all I’m focusing on right now is putting my best foot forward. I have a bigger ‘why’ now and that is what fuels me. In saying that, I’m excited to be back here. Even at 29, I’m still learning and we’re really pushing each other. It’s been an intense hit the last few weeks, but I think I’m in a lot better place physically,” he said.

O’Connor has come back with a hope of breaking into the World Cup squad and did so in 2015 as well, failing on that occasion but he is determined to prove himself this time around.

“I’m a Queenslander. I was born there. I started playing rugby there. It’s where the dream began. A big part as well is that I owe Queensland the best version of myself. I came back last time and I wasn’t in the best place mentally, but also physically I was quite broken, so I couldn’t produce and perform the rugby I wanted to for the team. I’m finally ready to return and make amends. I want to do right by the team and the fans, and I intend to deliver the very best of my energy. If I can help the team get back to the top of the sport and if we can bring success back to Queensland, that would be a dream for me. The last time I returned, I thought I was ready to repair some of the mistakes I made but also reach my rugby potential, but it was too rushed. I didn’t recognise how much pain I was still in mentally. In saying that, I wouldn’t change it because I was guided to the correct mentors,” he added.

The utility back believes that the journey he has been on over the past number of years has helped him in the long-run and has motivated others to fight their personal battles.

“I’ve been on a journey ever since to understanding my true self and how I’m meant to use my privileged position in rugby. I see now that rugby is a gift and I want my journey back to inspire possibly other young men out there who may be a little lost in the world right now. If I can make it back from adversity, then so can you,” he continued.

He closed off by saying how he thinks that inside-centre is his best position, however he will play wherever he is needed for the team.

“I think 12 is my position. I’ve been playing there the last two years and I’m most comfortable there. It’s best with the style of rugby I play and the way I have developed being overseas. Also, I’m now a bit of a nugget so I fit in there quite nicely. But of course, I will cover anywhere in the backline – whatever the team needs. It would simply just be an honour to put the shirt back on again. I would play prop if I had to,” he finished.

Rugby Australia’s director of rugby Scott Johnson is impressed by O’Connor and believes this is a great move for all parties involved.

“James has immense rugby talent. He started his career in Queensland and this is a chance for him to show his full potential for his home state. Now is the time for James’ rugby to do the talking. He’s come home for the right reasons to play rugby and to help develop our rugby programmes. He’s matured and understands the leadership roles both on-and-off the field. He’s been honest and transparent throughout this whole process. We want to back the man to be the player we know he can be,” he said.

During his time overseas O’Connor turned out for London Irish, Toulon and Sale Sharks, which show how experienced he has become. His versatility and knowledge could be a huge boost for Michael Chieka and are a couple of reasons why he may very well succeed in getting into the squad that he failed to break into four years ago.

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England’s Final November Test Confirmed

England have announced their fourth and final opponent of their November series this year

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(Photo by David Rogers/Getty Images)

England have confirmed that Tonga will be their fourth opponent in their November series this year.

The game will take place at Twickenham on Saturday November 21st at 15:15 in what will be the third of their four tests. 

It will be the fourth meeting of the two sides, but their first outside of a Rugby World Cup. They last played against one another last year at the World Cup in Japan, when England won as they have done on the other previous two occasions. 

Before the two teams meet England will take on the All Blacks on November 7th and then Argentina on the 14th. 

While after the Tongan encounter they face another southern hemisphere team in Australia on the 28th in the final of their Quilter Internationals for 2020. 

Those tests could go a long way to deciding England’s seeding in the draw for the 2023 Rugby World Cup in France, with the draw set to take place at some point in November. 

Before then the English will be focusing on the Six Nations, where they remain in title contention heading into the last two rounds. 

Next up for Eddie Jones’ side is a clash with Wales, however, their final game against Italy in Rome is under threat due to the Coronavirus outbreak within the country.

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Rugby Australia Claim Fox Sports Haven’t Walked Away

Last week it was reported that Fox Sports are set to end their 25-year long relationship with Australian Rugby, but Rugby Australia have now said otherwise

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(Photo by Dan Mullan/Getty Images)

Rugby Australia CEO Raelene Castle has claimed that Fox Sports haven’t walked away from the Wallabies and believes they could continue their relationship into the future.

Last week it was reported that the media organisation were set to end their 25-year relationship with Rugby Australia, but despite not having come to a deal that suits all Castle’s believes they will bid for rights next month. 

“We went through a negotiating process with them (Fox Sports) through their exclusive negotiating period. Unfortunately we couldn’t get to a place we were both comfortable with. So now we’re in tender and we would expect that as a market process they would step into that process,” she said. 

Reports state that Fox Sports had ended their relationship with Rugby Australia after the two bodies failed to find common ground on a deal between 2021 and 2025. 

Rugby Australia and Castle are set to make a historic move next month when they bring the broadcast rights to the market for the first time since the professional era began, but as stated above she is confident of an agreement between the two either way. 

There is a fear among many that Australia’s struggling Super Rugby sides, three of which remain without a win so far this season, will make it harder for the organisation to get a good deal over the line. 

However, all will become clearer by next month and Castle and co will be hoping that they can get the best deal possible.

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Ireland Climb in Latest World Rankings

Ireland have had the biggest boost in the latest World Rugby Rankings ahead of the 2023 Rugby World Cup draw later this year

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(Photo by Warren Little/Getty Images)

Ireland have leapfrogged Wales in the latest World Rugby Rankings of the the 2023 Rugby World Cup draw in November of this year.

The boys in green have taken over the No 4 spot in the rankings following their 24-14 win over Wales in the Six Nations over the weekend, with their opponents dropping down to fifth. 

It is a major boost for the Irish and gives them something to hold on to heading into the rest of this year’s fixtures as they are now currently in the top seeds ahead of the draw for the pool stages of France 2023. 

World Rugby announced recently that they will hold the draw later this year meaning that teams will have less time to climb the rankings than last time around when they had 18 months between the previous World Cup and the draw for the next one. 

A total of twelve teams will head into the draw as seeds in three brackets with the top four in the rankings being first seeds, meaning as of now Wales would be second seeds along with France, Australia and Japan. 

While Scotland, Argentina, Italy and Fiji are in the third bracket, with the remainder of the teams to be decided through different qualifiers over the next three years. 

Elsewhere in the rankings Georgia have moved up ahead of Italy, following the former’s latest two defeats in the Six Nations, while the biggest risers have been Portugal, who have moved from 22nd to 20th, but Russia have dived from 20th to 25th. 

Ireland will be hoping to continue their perfect start to the Six Nations campaign when they take on the third-ranked team England away from home, whom they may look to overtake in the rankings before the draw. 

It is certainly heating up between the Six Nations teams as they try to be the best-placed behind South Africa and New Zealand, who take the first and second spots, but won’t play until the summer.

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