By Gary Anderson

February 25 - Michael O'Connor has resigned as head coach of the Australian rugby sevens squad after nearly six years in the job ©Getty Images Michael O'Connor has cited "family considerations" as the main reason behind his decision to resign as head coach of the Australian rugby sevens after his departure was announced today. 

O'Connor informed the Australian Rugby Union (ARU) of his decision a number of days ago after almost six years in the job.

The 54-year-old revealed the ARU tried to persuade him to change his mind, but with Australia's sevens programme now operating on a full-time basis in preparation for the qualification cycle for the Rio 2016 Olympic Games, O'Connor felt he could not commit himself to the role.

"I tended my resignation to Anthony Eddy [general manager - rugby sevens] and the ARU earlier this week," said O'Connor.

"With the sevens programme recently moving to a full-time base in Sydney, and with the international travel to tournaments, it simply meant too much time away from home.

"I've thoroughly enjoyed coaching this team and basically it's a team of players I've put together.

"I would have loved to have followed through to 2016, but the reality is now the programme is in Sydney full-time, it's just too big a shift and too much time away.

"I felt as though I'd be letting the team down, not being down in Sydney 24/7.

"Now is the time to step aside.

"Nevertheless, this move to Sydney is a real step forward for sevens in Australia, and it aligns us with other countries chasing a gold medal at the Olympics in Rio in 2016.

"I believe that this young Australian squad will be a definite medal chance and now that they live and train in the same place, they will continue to improve and find ways to win."

O'Connor, who played 13 tests for Australia at centre as well as representing the country in rugby league, took up the sevens head coach role in 2008 and guided the team to a silver medal at the Delhi 2010 Commonwealth Games, while they also claimed a win at the Tokyo Sevens event in 2012.

O'Connor led Australia to a runners-up spot at Delhi 2010 ©Getty Images O'Connor led Australia to a runners-up spot at Delhi 2010 ©Getty Images

This season, Australia kicked off their Sevens World Series campaign in promising fashion after they finished runners-up to New Zealand in the opening round at Gold Coast, and after five rounds so far they sit fifth on the overall standings.

O'Connor, who is set to remain part of the ARU's coaching set up working with development athletes and coaching the National Youth Programmes, believes that whoever takes over the head coach role will have a group of promising young players who will be challenging for major honours in the coming years.

"We've had the youngest team in the IRB for the last five years but now we're able to hold onto them and we're contracting not just for one year but two and three years," he added.

"For the first time collectively as a team we're over 100 caps.

"We're catching up to other countries.

"You'll see big improvements for these boys in the next couple of years."

Australia began this season's World Series in impressive fashion at the Gold Coast Sevens losing out to New Zealand in the final match ©AFP/Getty ImagesAustralia began this season's World Series in impressive fashion at the Gold Coast Sevens losing out to New Zealand in the final match ©AFP/Getty Images

The ARU says it will commence the search for O'Connor's successor immediately, with the remit of ensuring the team qualifies for the Olympics with the goal of winning gold.

Australia will also be among the medal favourites for the upcoming Commonwealth Games in Glasgow.

It remains to be seen whether a full-time replacement will be installed in time for the next round of the Sevens World Series which is due to take place in Tokyo on March 22 and 23.

"On behalf of Australian Rugby, I'd like to thank Michael for his incredible dedication to the Qantas Men's Sevens team," said Australian Rugby chief executive officer Bill Pullover.

"He has provided strong leadership and stability since 2008 and has overseen an era of incredible change for rugby sevens including the move to professionalism.

"We're delighted that Michael will continue to stay involved in our sevens programmes and we will use the months ahead to ensure there is a smooth transition to his successor."

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