James O’Connor will not be joining the Western Force for the 2014 Super Rugby season after deciding to continue his career in Europe.
O’Connor, who was granted an early release from his Australian Rugby Union (ARU) contract earlier this month, had been in talks with the Force about signing with the Perth-based franchise next year.
But the Force announced on Wednesday O’Connor would not be returning to the club, with whom he made his Super Rugby debut in 2008 as a 17-year-old.
“We have been informed by James directly that he intends to continue his playing career in Europe for the time being, The Western Force and RugbyWA wish him well in these endeavours,” RugbyWA chief executive Mark Sinderberry said in a statement.
“The Western Force has laid strong foundations of standards and values – particularly around earning respect – and our discussions with James included on- and off-field programs that we believed could assist him in becoming the player he aspires to be and to develop himself as a person.
“James has made the decision that is right for him at this point in his playing career and the club remains open to recommencing these discussions again in the future if James wishes to return to Australian rugby.”
The Force had been O’Connor’s last chance of securing a start with an Australian Super Rugby franchise in 2014 after the Melbourne Rebels decided in July not to offer the 23-year-old a new contract.
His early release from his ARU contract had followed the latest in a string of off-field incidents when he was escorted from Perth Airport by police last month.
His departure from Australia means he will be ineligible for the Wallabies next year, although he may be able to resume his international career in 2015 should he return to Super Rugby.