(Reuters) - Australia winger Joseph Tomane believes James O‘Connor’s indefinite Wallabies suspension underlines the importance of discipline in the team even though he hopes for a quick return of his ‘good friend’ to the side.
Winger O‘Connor, who has 44 caps for the Wallabies, was dropped indefinitely by coach Ewen McKenzie after an incident at Perth airport last weekend and will miss the Rugby Championship matches in South Africa and Argentina.
The 23-year-old was escorted by police from Perth airport after being refused access to a flight to Bali because airline staff said he was intoxicated.
O‘Connor, who has had several disciplinary incidents off the pitch, has compounded the problems for the Wallabies after fellow winger Nick Cummins suffered a broken hand during last week’s win against Argentina.
With uncapped Chris Feuai-Sautia and Peter Betham as the only other wingers in the squad, three-test Tomane is in pole position to shoulder the responsibilities on the tour.
“The whole of James’ situation is really sad,” Tomane, 23, told reporters in Sydney, terming his 2007 Australian Schoolboys team mate as a “super talent”.
”I consider him a good friend of mine and he has all my support,“ Tomane said. ”I guess it just goes to show that there’s no one player bigger than the team.
”There are guidelines and whether the boys like it or not we’re in the public eye.
“We have to act respectfully and be shown as good role models, to not only young children, but young adults as well, so we’ve got to make sure that we’re on our best behaviour 24/7.”
O‘Connor, who played flyhalf in the British and Irish Lions series earlier this year before moving back to the wing for the Rugby Championship, is without a Super Rugby team after being dumped by the Melbourne Rebels.
“I do hope that it gets solved quickly and hopefully for Australian rugby James doesn’t leave and he’s back playing where he should be,” added Tomane.
Reporting by Sudipto Ganguly in Mumbai; editing by Amlan Chakraborty