Aoki replaces Yamamoto
Suntory Sungoliath hooker Yusuke Aoki has been called into Japan's Rugby World Cup squad to replace injured Mitsugu Yamamoto, the Japan Rugby Footall Union said yesterday. It said the 24-year-old Aoki, who has been capped twice before, would join the rest of the squad at their training camp in Italy. The Japanese, who take on Portugal on Saturday in their last warm-up game in Venice, are paired with Australia, Wales, Fiji and Canada in Pool B in the World Cup, which starts on Sept. 7 in France.
Martin Gaitan likely out
Argentina center Martin Gaitan was expected to miss the Rugby World Cup after heart problems at the weekend. Gaitan suffered a partial tear in the wall of a coronary artery and fainted in the dressing room at Millennium Stadium after playing in the Pumas' 27-20 loss to Wales on Saturday for the full 80 minutes without apparent trouble. Rushed to Cardiff's University of Wales hospital, he underwent a successful operation and was stable, according to team doctor Mario Larrian. However, the 29-year-old could remain in hospital for up to a week. Argentina opens the World Cup against host France in 18 days.
Sylvain Marconnet ruled out
France's World Cup hopes took a blow when its most experienced prop Sylvain Marconnet was ruled out because of a lingering shin injury on Monday. Marconnet, who sustained a double shin fracture when he fell off a ski lift in March, requires new surgery and will be replaced by Nicolas Mas for the tournament starting in France on Sept. 7. Marconnet, capped 71 times for France since 1998, was chosen for what would have been his second World Cup in the hope that he would fully recover in time. His surgeon, Philippe Landreau, ruled that a new operation was needed on the 31-year-old after viewing X-ray and MRI results from last week, the team said in a statement.
Mallet keen on coaching job
Former South Africa coach Nick Mallett could replace Pierre Berbizier as Italy coach after the rugby World Cup. "I am seriously considering it," Mallett told the Web site rugby365.com on Monday. "I find the idea of coaching them very attractive." Mallett, who led the Springboks to 27 victories in 38 Tests from 1997 to 2000, has a reputation for developing weaker teams. Berbizier, who led the Azzurri to an unprecedented two victories in the Six Nations this year, told Italy's rugby federation in April that he did not want to renew his contract after the Sept. 7 to Oct. 20 tournament in his native France. He took over as coach in April 2005.
■ New Zealand
All Blacks face exodus
An unprecedented number of All Blacks are heading for the World Cup in France with one-way tickets after succumbing to the lure of lucrative European club contracts. Six of the World Cup squad of 30 have confirmed moves to Europe and at least three fringe players will be joining clubs in Britain and France too. Centers Luke McAlister and Aaron Mauger, prop Carl Hayman, lock Chris Jack, hooker Anton Oliver, scrumhalf Byron Kelleher and former All Black flanker Marty Holah are all heading north. Recent All Blacks who missed out on World Cup selection are also chasing the big money in Europe.