Reds skipper James Horwill says he’ll have no problems with James O’Connor coming to Ballymore next Super Rugby season.
Queensland captain James Horwill has no reservations about the Reds re-opening the door for wayward Wallaby James O’Connor to return home next season.
Horwill, Australia’s Test captain when O’Connor continually ran off the rails from 2011-13, has full faith the Reds’ recruitment team will ensure the star back is heading to Ballymore for the right reasons.
Queensland Rugby Union boss Jim Carmichael is still saying little about whether the 23-year-old has signed a two-year deal, instead waiting until the end of their failed Super Rugby campaign before revealing the bulk of the Reds’ 2015 squad.
Coach Richard Graham again declined to confirm speculation this week.
But for six weeks, it’s appeared certain Gold Coast-raised O’Connor will head home from Europe to play on the wing for Queensland and aim for World Cup selection.
Horwill has been at the forefront of a strong Reds culture for the past five years, and many fans have expressed concerns about the impact O’Connor could have on the team fabric.
Asked whether he held any reservations, the 51-Test lock said: “Look, I think anyone who comes here will come for the right reasons and fit into our culture.
“I think that’s the most important thing that we’ve stressed: No matter who comes, whether they are a Test player or a young guy coming in, they have to come for the right reasons – because they want to play for Queensland and fit into our way of playing and do things our way.
“I’m sure if Richard and Jim didn’t see that in any individual, then they wouldn’t go down that path.”
Horwill admitted he’d had no contact with O’Connor since he was sent packing by the Australian Rugby Union last September after being escorted from an international flight at Perth Airport for being drunk.
He last spoke to Carmichael and Graham about recruitment and retention plans in May before going into camp with the Wallabies for June’s 3-0 sweep of France.
“I was happy,” he said. “I have full trust in the organisation.
“They have the team’s best interests at heart and always put Queensland rugby first and foremost.”
Code-jumper Karmichael Hunt is also believed to be in the mix for a Reds contract and looms as a fullback option, with Aidan Toua signing with French club Agen and youngster Jonah Placid heading to the Melbourne Rebels.
Queensland have cleared the decks out wide by also farewelling Rod Davies, Dom Shipperley and Mike Harris, while front-rowers Albert Anae and Jono Owen are leaving Ballymore as well.