'Intoxicated' Australian rugby star James O'Connor in airport row
Latest controversy involving 'intoxicated' winger sees him refused access to flight
Reuters in Sydney
The Australian Rugby Union is investigating reports that Wallabies winger James O'Connor was escorted by police from Perth airport last weekend after being refused access to a flight because airline staff said he was intoxicated.
Australia beat Argentina 14-13 in Perth on Saturday and the squad, including 23-year-old O'Connor, were given a week off before this weekend's departure to South Africa for a match in Cape Town on September 28.
A statement from the Australian Federal Police (AFP) released to the media read: "The AFP can confirm it spoke to a 23-year-old man at Perth International Airport in the early hours of [Sunday]."
"It is alleged the man was intoxicated. The airline the man was booked to travel with made a decision not to allow him to board the aircraft. The AFP subsequently escorted the man from the terminal."
O'Connor played flyhalf for Australia in their series defeat to the British & Irish Lions earlier this year, before being moved back to the wing for the Rugby Championship by new coach Ewen McKenzie. He has won 44 caps for his country since 2008.
"Earlier this week, Australian Rugby Union was made aware of an alleged incident involving James O'Connor at Perth International Airport in the early hours of Sunday," said an Australian Rugby Union (ARU) statement released yesterday.
"While ARU had not received any formal notification, complaints or reports from police, airline or security officials, ARU began an investigation into the alleged incident. The investigation is ongoing."
While prodigiously talented, O'Connor does not have a flawless disciplinary record off the pitch and has been involved in a string of incidents while representing his country.
Most notably, he missed the official launch of Australia's 2011 World Cup campaign at Sydney airport after sleeping in.
He was also photographed at a fast food restaurant at 4am with fellow Wallabies back Kurtley Beale during the Lions series.
O'Connor, who is without a Super Rugby team after being dumped by the Melbourne Rebels, conceded after the Lions series that he had some work to do to regain the trust of some of his teammates.
"I don't play rugby to be talked about off the field," he said at the time.