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ARU holds up O Connor deal
ARU holds up O'Connor deal

Western Force and the Australian Rugby Union both want to lock James O'Connor into at least a two-year deal.

Months of speculation about the Wallaby star's future are about to end, with the 20-year-old set to re-sign for the Force for 2012.

It is believed O'Connor is holding out on a second year while he waits to see if the ARU's salary cap is challenged by the Rugby Union Players' Association.

O'Connor was ready to make an announcement at the start of the week but was advised * *by his management to wait.

The Force want O'Connor locked away, but there could be a further delay over his Wallaby top-up payment.

Under ARU protocols, the Force cannot announce the signing. It has to be done with the governing body, but the ARU said it had not been able to complete negotiations until O'Connor had finalised his decision.

An ARU spokesman said there was no timeline on negotiations.

Force chief executive Vern Reid said O'Connor's lawyer, David Shand, had asked him to "continue to progress the negotiations".

"I'm pleased where we are. I hope we can conclude this in the next few days," Reid said.

"Equally, if there are issues yet to be resolved then the market would be open and the game would be back on."

Reid would not comment about the likely length of O'Connor's contract.

The Queensland Reds, Melbourne Rebels and ACT Brumbies have all admitted defeat in the battle to sign O'Connor.

The Reds gave up hope early in the chase and, despite a late weekend effort by the Rebels, it was the Brumbies who were the last club to be struck off his list.

O'Connor has been named at No.15 for the game against the Reds tomorrow night at nib Stadium after a two-week absence through injury but will float into the frontline, with Patrick Dellit dropping to full-back.

James Stannard has been retained at fly-half, where he was a revelation in games against the Hurricanes and Highlanders.

Previous incumbent Willie Ripia, who is carrying long-term injuries that started with pre- season foot damage, and Cameron Shepherd, who has hamstring problems, are both sidelined.

Scrum-half Mark Swanepoel, who made his run-on debut in New Zealand, is on the reserves bench.

Force coach Richard Graham said he tried to limit the changes after last Friday's impressive 21-14 win over the Highlanders.

"I haven't made a huge amount of changes, O'Connor and Brett Sheehan will come back into the side but it's about rewarding performance," Graham said.

"In terms of selection I've tried to keep it as stable as I possibly can."

Reds coach Ewen McKenzie has named a 23-man squad.

  • Teams - Force: *Kieran Longbottom, Nathan Charles, Matt Dunning, Sam Wykes, Nathan Sharpe, Matt Hodgson, David Pocock, Richard Brown, Brett Sheehan, James Stannard, David Smith, Rory Sidey, Patrick Dellit, Nick Cummins, James O'Connor. *Reserves *: Ben Whittaker, Tim Fairbrother, Tom Hockings, Ben McCalman, Mark Swanepoel, Mitch Inman, Alfie Mafi. *Reds *: Ben Coridas, Ben Daley, Saia Faingaa, Liam Gill, James Hanson, Scott Higginbotham, Greg Holmes, James Horwill, Radike Samo, Jake Schatz, Rob Simmons, James Slipper, Adam Wallace-Harrison, Will Chambers, Quade Cooper, Rod Davies, Will Genia, Jono Lance, Luke Morahan, Dallan Murphy, Ian Prior, Dom Shipperley, Ben Tapuai.