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James O'Connor has been suspended from the Tri-Nations decider between the Wallabies and All Blacks at Suncorp Stadium on Saturday as punishment for failing to attend the Australian Rugby Union's World Cup squad announcement in Sydney last week.

The 21-year-old embarked on a late-night drinking session with teammates shortly after they arrived back from a triumphant trip to South Africa on Wednesday. He was the only player missing when the tour party for New Zealand was named the following morning at a function attended by dignatries including ARU managing director and chief executive John O'Neill and 1999 World Cup-winning captain John Eales.

O'Connor, who also missed the official team photo, delivered a scripted apology at a Wallabies fan day at Ballymore here yesterday, but it was not enough to save one of Australian rugby's most marketable players from copping a one-week ban.

He also faces a $A10,000 fine if he breaks team protocols again before December 31.

The hero of the Wallabies 26-24 Bledisloe Cup test win in Hong Kong 10 months ago, O'Connor will now be forced to watch the climax to this year's Tri-Nations from the stands.

He is expected to be replaced on the right wing by current centre Adam Ashley-Cooper while Anthony Faingaa is set to partner Pat McCabe in midfield when the Wallabies team is named tomorrow.

Wallabies coach Robbie Deans was critical of O'Connor's indiscretion yesterday, equating his absence to a breach of trust.

The Australian Rugby Union Players Association, usually staunch defenders of their members, also took exception to O'Connor's no-show.

RUPA president Adam Freier advocated O'Connor's dumping yesterday.

Freier, who will be a teammate of O'Connor at the Melbourne Rebels next year, said a strong message needed to be sent to the high-profile 28-test utility.

The former Wallabies hooker was concerned O'Connor, who had explained his shock June defection from the Western Force to the Rebels as the best move for his "brand", was headed into dangerous territory.

"It's an early crossroads for him, and he can go two ways here," Freier told the ABC's Offsiders programme.

"The best thing Robbie can do is starve him of actually performing and hopefully that will move him in a new direction because he's been rattled talking brands.

"He made a terrible mistake, a lack of judgement, and he should be punished."

The most recent Wallaby to be stood down from a test for disciplinary reasons was double international Lote Tuqiri, who was suspended was suspended for two matches in July 2007 and fined after blowing a positive alcohol reading at training.

Former Wallabies five-eighth Elton Flatley also incurred a one-match ban before the 2003 World Cup when he missed a team recovery session after a late night.

Before O'Connor's punishment was made public, Wallabies hooker Stephen Moore said he hoped O'Connor would play the All Blacks.

"I don't know the facts of what happened but we'd love to have James playing at the weekend," Moore said.

"He's an important part of our team. You'd rather have him on the field than not, that's for sure."


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