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O'Connor to leave Irish

London Irish have confirmed that James O'Connor will leave them at the end of this season after completing a six-month contract with the Aviva Premiership club.

Irish say the Australia star has indicated a wish to play in the southern hemisphere's 2015 Super Rugby competition, building towards the World Cup later that year.

The Exiles believe such a scenario would only have allowed them to potentially secure full-back O'Connor's services on another short-team deal, which did not fit in with their future plans.

O'Connor, who joined Irish earlier this season, has also been strongly linked with a move to big-spending Heineken Cup holders Toulon, although the French heavyweights recently secured Wales international full-back Leigh Halfpenny's services from next season on a deal reportedly worth around £700,000 annually.

O'Connor, 23, moved to Irish after a series of off-field issues culminated in him falling out of favour with Wallabies coach Ewen McKenzie.

He was subsequently released from his Australian Rugby Union contract and he does not have a deal with them for 2014. O'Connor did not feature on Australia's European tour last November.

"I have thoroughly enjoyed my time at London Irish, and I am looking forward to the next few months," said O'Connor, who has won 44 caps.

"The club welcomed me in with open arms last year in what was a difficult time, and have been brilliant to me during my time so far.

"I've learnt a great deal, both on and off the field, and will leave at the end of the season with great memories and mates, too."

O'Connor's departure has been confirmed barely 24 hours after it was announced that Irish's England international wing Marland Yarde will join Harlequins next term.

"James is a world-class player who has had a very positive impact on the team, and I am sure he will play his heart out for us until the end of the season," Irish rugby director Brian Smith said.

"He will head back to Australia in 2015 to follow his World Cup dream, and the club wishes him well with that.

"If the opportunity ever arises in the future then he will always be welcome back at London Irish."


From Belfast Telegraph