Wallaby star James O'Connor on Sunday apologised for missing last week's World Cup squad announcement and said he was willing to take his punishment.
O'Connor faced the media for the first time since missing the squad announcement in Sydney last Thursday ahead of next weekend's Tri-Nations decider against New Zealand in Brisbane.
The 21-year-old utility back has been asked by the Australian Rugby Union to explain his disappearance and could face a ban and miss Australia's final lead-up game to next month's World Cup in New Zealand.
O'Connor said he was sorry for letting down his team and Australian rugby.
"I just want to express my regret as this is such an important event for the Wallabies and I would like to apologise to all the fans and my teammates," he told reporters.
"I let myself down, I let the fans down and I guess all the Wallabies down and the ARU as well.
"It's a massive event [World Cup squad naming] and one that only comes around every four years."
The ARU is investigating the incident and is expected to hand down its decision on Monday.
O'Connor was reportedly spotted at one or two hotels the night before the squad announcement, but he would not reveal the reason behind his no-show.
But O'Connor, reportedly embroiled in a hushed-up incident during last year's year-end tour and also disciplined for a 2009 hotel food fight, could even face a heavier punishment that could rule him out of some World Cup action.
"The process is out of my hands. It's with the ARU and whatever the outcome is, I'm willing to cop it," he said.
"All I know is I will do all I can for the team.
"We've got a massive game coming up this Saturday and a chance to win the Tri-Nations before the World Cup, so all my efforts [will go] into training hard and doing what I can for the team.
"I want to be there for my teammates, as they would be there for me."
Coach Robbie Deans left no doubt about his immense disappointment on Sunday, saying there would be "likely consequences" over the unsavoury distraction to Australia's hopes of ending a 10-year Tri-Nations drought.
"Part of the game is on the field and part of the game is off the field," he said in Brisbane.
"If you can't rely on your mates off the field, it's very likely you wont be able to rely on them on the field.
"It's a necessity in the function of the team [reliance].
"I don't think anyone in the group is happy. It's a distraction that we can do without."
If O'Connor thought he might gain some support from the players union, then he could think again with RUPA president, and prospective Melbourne Rebels teammate, Adam Freier calling for his dumping.
Freier did not believe there was a drinking culture within the Wallabies but felt a strong message needed to be sent to the 28-Test wonderkid.
The former Wallabies hooker was concerned O'Connor, who had explained his shock June defection to the Rebels as the best move for his "brand", was veering into dangerous territory.
"It's an early crossroads for him, and he can go two ways here," Freier told the ABC's Offsiders program.
"I know what he's like; he'll be very disappointed in himself and he'll be carrying that burden.
"[But] 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.
"This shouldn't just be washed over, this is a big deal."
AFP & AAP
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