Wed, Oct 15, 2003 - Page 19 News List

Injuries already piling up

RUGBY WORLD CUP Following the first round, a number of key player are nursing wounds that may keep them out of upcoming matches or hinder their performance

AP , SYDNEY, AUSTRALIA

The US rugby team during their training session in Brisbane yesterday ahead of their Rugby World Cup pool match against Fiji tonight.

PHOTO: EPA

The World Cup is only four days old and already the treatment rooms are full of the sick and injured.

The bad news on Tana Umaga's injured knee was confirmed as a ruptured ligament on Monday while England sent for another scrumhalf with three of them hobbling around in danger of missing the showdown with South Africa.

Umaga suffered his injury colliding with All Blacks teammate Carlos Spencer in Saturday's 70-7 victory over Italy in Melbourne.

The team confirmed the talented center had ruptured the posterior ligament of his left knee but hadn't given up hope that he would be back to play some part in the rugby World Cup.

In a statement, the All Blacks said Norm Maxwell had been contacted as a standby option but there was "no certainty he would be the replacement if in fact a replacement for Umaga is required."

Spencer and winger Joe Rokocoko also suffered injuries during the game but team spokesman Matt McIlraith said they were "not major injury concerns."

Fiji will have to play the US on Wednesday without winger Rupeni Caucaunibuca, but not because of injury. On Monday night, he was suspended for two matches by a judiciary hearing for his part in a brawl during last Saturday's loss to France.

The decision, announced after a hearing that went nearly four hours, suspended Caucaunibuca until Oct. 23, meaning he will miss Fiji's next two matches against the US in Brisbane and against Japan in Townsville.

He will be available for Fiji's last pool match against Scotland in Sydney on Nov. 1.

Millions of TV viewers saw the winger, who had already scored a memorable try during his team's 61-18 loss at Brisbane, launch himself into a brawl that had already started after a double tackle on French flyhalf Frederic Michalak.

In the England camp, there were more wounded players and, unfortunately for coach Clive Woodward, they were all scrumhalves.

Injuries to first-choice scrumhalf Matt Dawson, backup Kyran Bracken and possibly third choice Andy Gomarsall led Woodward to scramble for cover in the early hours of Monday.

Bracken failed to take his place on the bench in Sunday's 84-6 win over Georgia because of a back injury, Dawson came off in the first half and spent the rest of the game with ice strapped to his knee and Gomarsall appeared to hobble from the field at the end.

With Bath's Martyn Wood already boarding a plane for Australia after Austin Healey apparently ruled himself out through injury, Dawson said he hoped to make it for the crucial match against the Springboks on Saturday.

"I came off towards halftime with a knock on my leg but don't believe it will affect my availability for selection," the British Lion said.

"It was decided that I should come off more as a precaution than anything. South Africa is a match that none of us wants to miss."

The match in Perth is rated the biggest of all 44 pool games.

Whoever wins has a comparatively easy ride through to the semis while the loser almost certain will face championship favorite New Zealand in the quarters.

The last time they met, a 53-3 victory for England 11 months ago, South Africa had a player sent off and were accused of dirty play.

Springboks captain Corne Krige said Monday his players had their penalty infringements counted during the this year's Super 12 and Tri-Nations campaigns this year as part of an effort to clean up their rugby.

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