22 Aug 2011

O'Connor facing strict punishment

5:57 am on 22 August 2011

Remorseful star James O'Connor appears certain to be banned from the Wallabies' Tri-Nations decider with coach Robbie Deans and the Australian Rugby Union incensed by his late-night partying.

Back in the Australian camp in Brisbane on Sunday, O'Connor apologised for missing Thursday morning's World Cup squad announcement and team photo and said he would cop any punishment on the chin.

He is expected to be officially stood down from Saturday night's series finale against the All Blacks at Suncorp Stadium after the completion of an Australian Rugby Union investigation on Monday.

But O'Connor, reportedly embroiled in a hushed-up incident during last year's spring tour and also disciplined for a 2009 hotel food fight, could even face a heavier punishment that could rule him out of some World Cup action.

Deans left no doubt about his immense disappointment on Sunday, saying there would be "likely consequences" over the unsavoury distraction to Australia's hopes of ending a 10-year Tri-Nations drought.

If O'Connor thought he might gain some support from the players union, then he could think again with RUPA president, and prospective Melbourne Rebels teammate, Adam Freier calling for his dumping.

Freier did not believe there was a drinking culture within the Wallabies but felt a strong message needed to be sent to the 28-Test wonderkid.

The former Wallabies hooker was concerned O'Connor, who had explained his shock June defection to the Rebels as the best move for his "brand", was veering into dangerous territory.