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O'Connor can be Exiles coup - Smith

London Irish director of rugby Brian Smith is ready to give James O'Connor the guidance he needs to resurrect a career marred by repeated misdemeanors.

Smith regards O'Connor as the most "significant signing" in the club's 115-year history, but the gifted 23-year-old arrives with plenty of personal baggage.

The Australian Rugby Union terminated his contract this month after he was banned from boarding a flight from Perth Airport to Bali for being drunk and escorted from the terminal for arguing with airline staff.

When he was unable to secure a new contract with a Super Rugby team, he agreed to join struggling Irish until the end of the season.

"In life you have to take people as you find them - you're making judgements all the time," Smith said.

"The first conversation with James was the most important one for me because I wanted to know was this kid the same kid that I was reading about from Generation Y?

"I didn't buy into that because young men are the same whether they're from my generation, my father's generation or this generation. They're ambitious but sometimes need direction.

"My grandad used to say a river without banks is just a puddle. The message is you must channel this energy and focus this potential in one direction. Hopefully that's something we can help James with.

"We have a very strong culture at the club and we've worked hard to keep it.

"James understands his responsibilities here, embraces them and our culture.

"From a rugby and intellectual point of view we're getting a current front-line international player and will have that rub off effect on our squad.

"James went straight in from school into playing international rugby again.

"A lot of us had the opportunity to grow up and make our mistakes out of the limelight, but he hasn't had that opportunity."

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