Rugby: Hayden Parker to play in Japan

Hayden Parker.
Hayden Parker.
Highlanders and Otago first five-eighth Hayden Parker will get back to match fitness by spending a couple of months in Japanese rugby.

Parker (24) was ruled out for the season in May and had a shoulder operation, having carried the injury for more than six months.

He is slowly working his way back to fitness and would have a short stint in Japan to help with his rehabilitation.

Highlanders general manager Roger Clark said Parker would link up with the Panasonic Wild Knights and spend a couple of months playing for the club before heading back to the Highlanders for the 2016 season.

The Highlanders have a partnership with Panasonic and assistant coach Tony Brown still has links with the club.

Clark said it was a good fit as Parker needed game time under his belt and Japanese top league was a good standard for Parker to test himself.

Parker was due to head to Japan some time next month but the exact date would depend on when his shoulder was completely right.

The Highlanders have about six spots to fill their roster for next season and Clark said it was hoped to announce some player signings in the next couple of weeks.

The full squad will be named at the end of the month.

• James O'Connor has been released from the final year of his contract with the Reds due to personal welfare reasons.

The former Wallabies star had joined the Reds on a two-year deal ahead of the 2015 Super rugby season but, according to a club statement, O'Connor has been dealing with a number of ''personal matters'' which the Queensland Rugby Union, Australian Rugby Union and the Rugby Union Players' Association have all been aware of since May.

It paves the way for the 25-year-old to return to French glamour club Toulon, where he spent six months before joining the Reds earlier this year.

O'Connor played just 13 games in an injury-wrecked year with the Reds.

His return to Australian rugby was partly motivated by a bid to make the Wallabies' World Cup squad but he was unsurprisingly overlooked by coach Michael Cheika.

- Steve Hepburn & AAP 

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