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Club Rugby

London Irish confirm signing of Australia utility back James O'Connor on a short-term contract

O'Connor has claimed that he needs a fresh start following his Melbourne Rebels exit earlier this year

London Irish have confirmed the signing of Australia international James O'Connor until the end of the season.

The Aviva Premiership side were widely expected to announce the capture of the Wallabies back, who will be looking to use the move as a means of forcing his way back into the national squad before the 2015 World Cup.

O'Connor is expected to make his debut for the Exiles in Sunday's clash against Northampton.

"Having decided that I needed a change from both a personal and playing point of view, I spoke to clubs in Japan and France and concluded that the best way forward for my development was to move to England," said the 23-year-old.

"Given that I've left my support network back in Australia, London Irish offered me an environment that I felt comfortable with."

The former Western Force and Melbourne Rebels player has had a chequered career since making his Australia debut as an 18-year-old in 2008.

He has added a further 43 caps to his tally, with his footballing ability seeing him fielded at fly-half, centre, wing and full-back.

He played at number 10 during Australia's 2-1 Test series defeat against the British and Irish Lions in the summer, scoring a try in the Wallabies' third Test defeat.

However, his off-field behaviour saw him ditched by the Australian Rugby Union last month after an incident at Perth airport, where O'Connor was reportedly escorted from the premises after arguing with airline staff.

Australia coach Ewen McKenzie insisted the decision did not close the door on O'Connor's Test career, but admitted the player has to "modify behaviour".

Four days prior to the second Test of the Lions series, O'Connor and team-mate Kurtley Beale were photographed at a fast-food restaurant in Melbourne at 4am in the morning, while the utility back had previously missed buses to training and team meetings.

In 2011 he received a one-game ban for missing Australia's World Cup squad announcement, but his on-field ability has never been called into question and his availability prompted interest from several top European clubs.

His decision to move to the Madejski Stadium could also invigorate the Exiles, who have lost four of their opening six Premiership fixtures.