Queensland Reds halfback Will Genia would welcome the recruitment of James O’Connor but only if the exiled back is wholly committed to the Super Rugby franchise.
The Queensland Rugby Union refuses to deny reports the 23-year-old is close to concluding a deal with the Reds for a return to Australian rugby in 2015.
Having developed a reputation as a disruptive influence following departures from the Western Force and Melbourne Rebels in recent seasons as well as having his ARU deal ripped up last year, O’Connor headed to the northern hemisphere to keep his rugby career alive.
The versatile back is currently playing for London Irish in England and is believed to have signed a deal with French club Toulon for next season but a move to the Reds for next year’s Super Rugby competition would give O’Connor a chance to get himself back in the Wallabies setup ahead of next year’s World Cup.
Genia was adamant the out-of-form Reds must not chase players who aren’t prepared to become a part of the team’s culture, regardless of how talented they are.
“There’s no denying he is a class player but again, if he was to come it’d have to be for the right reasons,” Genia said.
“I’m sure from a cultural point of view those things are more important than any other things. We don’t want to be saying yes to just anybody and everybody, guys have to want to come and come for the right reasons.”
The man who sent O’Connor packing from the Force in 2011, Richard Graham, is now the coach of the Reds and it’s assumed his presence is a hurdle to any move for O’Connor.
But the native Queenslander is good friends with Reds star Quade Cooper and his recruitment could be a huge fillip to the Reds during a disappointing year where they’ve only managed three Super Rugby victories and were humbled by the Crusaders in Brisbane last weekend.
Queensland take on the Rebels this weekend and Genia says a sixth consecutive defeat would be almost too much to bear.
“If we do lose to the Rebels it will hurt,” he said.
“I think we’re the only Australian team to not lose to the Rebels in the Super Rugby competition so that’s something that we are proud of. Certainly a record that we want to keep hold of.”