Test halfback Will Genia hopes a "very harsh reality check" will make the difference for estranged Wallaby James O'Connor this time around.

Genia said he hoped hitting rock bottom in Australia would make his former team mate take seriously an opportunity to play in England.

"When you get your contract torn up there's nothing worse, you're basically getting told 'see you later'," Genia said. "As a young kid everything was given to him, he was signed straight out of school, he played for the Wallabies so young. Maybe having something taken away from him that he dearly loves will put him back on the right track. It's just a very harsh reality check for him."

O'Connor cut a surreal figure in the modest surrounds of English Premiership club London Irish on Tuesday.

The 44-Test outside back, who has worn a gold Wallabies jersey from the time he was 18 years old until a month ago, this time turned out in the deep green and red of the proud but battling Aviva Premiership side.

In an anonymous borough on the fringe of Greater London, some 17,000 kilometres from home, O'Connor sat next to his new coach, former Wallaby Brian Smith, and vowed to turn his life around away from the glare of the Australian rugby scene.

"I started talking to Smithy a month ago, straight away we connected quite well," O'Connor said. "The style of play we have seen from London Irish and their culture – they are a very family-based club – is the next step in my life that I need right now.

"There is no secret I've come over here and want to focus on some personal development and see it as a great fit."

His verbal commitment to turning over a new leaf was met with a degree of scepticism in Australian rugby circles. Many have heard it all before.

But Genia said he hoped for O'Connor's sake that the 23-year-old meant it this time, and would walk the talk.

"He feels it's a good move for him. He was quoted as saying he wants to get out of the bubble of Australian rugby to clear his head and mature as a person," Genia said. "That's the path that he's chosen and you hope that at the end of the day he comes out of it as a better person and a more mature bloke."

A seven-month deal to play at fullback for the 10th-placed London Irish for the remainder of the northern hemisphere season was not the option many expected O'Connor to take after the Australian Rugby Union severed his contract four weeks ago.

The Western Force had offered him a contract that paled in comparison – to the tune of several hundred thousands of dollars – to the salary he was used to.

But the talk was all about culture in the London Irish clubhouse in Sunbury. Smith said he was confident the club's culture would be a good fit for their Australian import and that O'Connor would respond.

"The first conversation with James was the most important one for me, because I wanted to know – was this kid the same kid that I was reading about Generation Y players," he said. "I don't buy into that. Young men are the same whether they're from my generation, my father's generation or this generation. They're ambitious but sometimes need direction.

"My granddad used to say a river without banks is just a puddle. The message is you must channel this energy and focus this potential in one direction . . . Hopefully that's something we can help James with. Keep him focused here and look after the off-pitch stuff."

Wallabies coach Ewen McKenzie, who hoped O'Connor would stay and play his way back to good standing in Australia, has made clear he believes O'Connor could have an extraordinary career in the gold jersey.

He has also made it clear, with the 2015 World Cup in mind, that he wants to develop players who are in Australia now.

O'Connor's decision to stay in England until next May could rule out a Wallabies call-up in 2014, with the ARU's rules around eligibility protected and administered by a conservative board.

The Force aren't likely to be interested in signing him towards the end of the Super Rugby season unless they are heavily hit by injuries in their back line.

O'Connor said on Tuesday that he had not thought much further than the next seven months. He has always maintained he wants to return to Australia to fight for a spot in the World Cup squad.

Genia said it was O'Connor's prerogative to chase redemption offshore, but he also issued a reality check of his own.

"Everyone is replaceable – everyone," Genia said. "It doesn't matter how good you are as an individual or how much talent you have. Everyone is replaceable because the team comes first."