Former Australian golden boy James O’Connor plans to battle his way back into the Wallabies squad for next year’s World Cup after facing his “darkness” at a meditation and sensory-deprivation retreat in Iceland.
The wayward star earned the last of his 44 caps in 2013, at the age of just 23, when his Australian Rugby Union contract was torn up after he was prevented from boarding a flight to Bali for being drunk.
His chequered past also includes being arrested and fined in Paris last year during a cocaine bust while playing for Toulon, before a move to Sale Sharks in the English Premiership.
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The versatile winger has been working to return from ankle surgery in recent months and spent time in an Icelandic centre which uses sensory deprivation, heat exhaustion and deep states of meditation.
He said it had helped him face “myself and my darkness”.
“Coming to the end of my training camp in Iceland and it has been a humbling and truly enlightening experience,” he said on Instagram late Sunday.
“My reaction to each stimulus has forced me to face myself and my darkness in a way that I have never felt before. I now know who I was but more importantly, I now see who I must become.”
He said the experience had made him realise “a deep desire to play for the Wallabies again”.
“I have learnt from my mistakes and I am now ready. Ready to bleed green and gold. Ready to bleed for my brothers. Ready to bleed for the people.
“I will be back playing in October and I will have my eye firmly on the World Cup. I will not let myself or anyone down again.”
To realise his dream O’Connor would need to sign with an Australian Super Rugby club, as players based abroad are generally unable to represent their country.
The exception is those who have pulled on the green and gold more than 60 times and have held a professional contract with Australian rugby for at least seven years.
O’Connor’s desire to return comes after the Wallabies arrived at yet another crossroads with Saturday night’s limp 23-19 defeat to Argentina.
Once the disbelief subsided, the level of disgust among supporters was palpable at Cbus Super Stadium on the Gold Coast.
The scene itself was scarcely believable.
One man was so angry his verbal tirade at players led to a physical altercation with Lukhan Tui and several other Wallabies.
While there is no excusing the man’s actions – particularly if he pushed Tui’s younger sister as alleged – the reality is events would not have unfolded the way they did had the team held up their end of the bargain.
Cheika said he fully recognised the frustration of supporters.
“I understand how fans get disappointed. I’m disappointed as well,” he told reporters on Sunday.
“I saw he was there in his Wallaby jersey as well, it’s not like he doesn’t want us to win. He wants us to win badly. Sometimes that goes pear-shaped.
“There’s a lot of supporters out there, no matter what they’re always behind you. You’ve got to always be mindful of those people.
“It’s the national team and that’s what people do, a lot of supporters last night (felt) the same. You can’t be talking about keeping the faith, you’ve got to show it.”