Higginbotham : O’Connor had to leave Rebels

Wallabies and Rebels forward Scott Higginbotham has backed his Super Rugby club after they sacked Test five-eighth James O’Connor by saying that it had to happen.

The Rebels announced that they would not be offering Wallabies fly half James O’Connor a new contract for the 2014 Super Rugby season.

Higginbotham says that move by the Rebels has nothing to do with O’Connor’s playing ability and was the right decision for the club.

“He has been an outstanding player for the club and he is a Wallaby. No one questions his playing ability,” Higginbotham told AAP.

“It was more a selection issue and how the club felt he fitted into the team dynamic.”

O’Connor was one of two big signings for the Rebels along with his Wallabies team mate Kurtley Beale who has made headlines this season for the wrong reasons and was suspended twice by the Rebels.

Higginboth said that it was time that the 12th-placed Rebels started focusing on the young talent that is coming through their ranks.

“With a lot of young guys coming through and new guys shining, it was time to start fresh.

“It was a good opportunity and I think it’s just what had to happen.”

Higginbotham said that it would be better is O’Connor developed his skills and personality at a different club.

The Rebels are keen to keep O’Connor’s close friend Beale despite his much reported problems.

Beale and O’Connor annoyed former Wallabies coach Robbie Deans two weeks ago when they were seen at a fast-food outlet at 4:00am just days before the second Test against the British and Irish Lions in Melbourne.

“He’s a great team player and the rest of the playing group really do enjoy and love playing with him,” said Higginbotham.

“If he sorts out those off-field issues, then there is no issue with him.”

Higginbotham will miss the Rebels final Super Rugby match this season which is against the Highlanders on Friday as he has hip and shoulder injuries.

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