Rebels back-rower Scott Higginbotham has backed the Melbourne-based franchise after they parted ways with James O'Connor.
Rebels back-rower Scott Higginbotham has backed the Melbourne-based franchise after they parted ways with utility back James O'Connor.
The Rebels announced they would not be offering Wallabies fly-half James O'Connor a new contract for the 2014 Super Rugby season.
Higginbotham, who missed Australia's recent series defeat to the British and Irish Lions due to a shoulder injury, said that move by the Rebels has nothing to do with O'Connor's playing ability and was the right decision for the franchise.
“He has been an outstanding player for the club and he is a Wallaby,” Higginbotham told AAP.
No one questions his playing ability.
“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 hit the headlines for the wrong reasons this season, after he was suspended twice by the Rebels.
Higginbotham said that it was time that the 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,” he added.
“It was a good opportunity and I think it's just what had to happen.”
Higginbotham believes it would be better if O'Connor developed his skills and personality at a different franchise.
The Rebels are eager to keep O'Connor's close friend Beale despite his much reported problems.
The duo annoyed former Wallabies coach Robbie Deans two weeks ago when they were seen at a fast-food outlet at 4am just days before the second Test against the Lions in Melbourne.
“He's (Beale) 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.”