Sale Sharks have announced that former Wallaby James O’Connor has been released from his contract so that he can pursue the prospect of representing Australia at the 2019 Rugby World Cup.
O’Connor joined the Sharks from Toulon at the beginning of the 2017/18 season and has made 31 appearances for the club in the two years since.
O’Connor signed a three-year contract with the club, but the Sharks have agreed to release him and they confirmed that the 28-year-old has signed a deal with Rugby Australia which will make him available to Michael Cheika for selection.
Sale Sharks Director of Rugby Steve Diamond said: “James returns to Australia with the club’s full blessing, he is an exceptional talent and we will be sorry to see him go, but he has a dream to play for his country again and I will never block anybody’s opportunity to do that, especially at a World Cup.”
It has not yet been confirmed which Australian Super Rugby franchise O’Connor has signed with but widespread reports in Australia suggest that he will sign a long-term deal with the Queensland Reds.
O’Connor has lined out for Australia 44 times before he left the country for northern hemisphere rugby in 2013.
He did return for a season to gain selection for the 2015 World Cup squad but a series of injuries in addition to poor form saw him overlooked.
It is expected that he will be named Australia’s squad for the upcoming Rugby Championship.