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Teams face injury worries ahead of the RWC Underline 16 August, 2011
Gabirieli Lovobalavu (right) one of a host of Fijian players battling injury ahead of the RWC.
There are six more days for teams to inform the IRB of their final squad of 30 players for the Rugby World Cup, an unenviable task. Team coaches and/or selectors will be criticized by someone whatever their choice, while informing those players who are not selected is never an easy task.

The Argentineans have already announced their group prior to departure to Europe for two preparation matches. One decision that was made for the selectors, and of which they had no control over, is the absence of Juan Martin Hernandez, their play-maker and star of 2007 in France when they finished 3rd. The Racing Metro fly-half has not recovered from torn knee ligaments sustained back in January.

Argentina though is not alone when it comes to injury worries ahead of the start of the RWC. Everyone should already be aware of those Flying Fijians currently struggling with injuries – Napolioni Nalaga (fractured finger), Gabirieli Lovobalavu (fractured fibula), Sekonaia Kalou (twisted knee), Ifereimi Rawaqa (back injury), Timoci Nagusa (back injury) and Michael Tagicakibau (shoulder).

Fiji’s Pool D opponents, South Africa, have doubts over captain Jon Smit, and fullback Frans Steyn, who were both forced off the field of play on Saturday, against Australia while Wales have had their back division choice reduced by the losses of Gavin Henson, Mike Stoddart and Dwayne Peel. There are also questions about Lee Bryne, Leigh Halfpenny and most importantly, the captain Mathew Rees, who requires neck surgery.

Do the coaching staff give those players coming back from injury some match time to prove their fitness, thus possibly aggravating the problem, or name them in the group for New Zealand, hoping that the players will be fit in time for the RWC, without dusting off the cobwebs? This is the dilemma when playing these warm-up games. Coaches want to have a look at the current form of as many of the squad as possible, while trying to shape their best team at the same time. Who do you keep 'under wraps' for the main event?

Most will have had a pretty good idea for a long time of about 25 out of the 30 to be named. It's those last five places, those cover props, the back-up midfield players (scrumhalves and fly halves) and the utility players that are still up for grabs. For the teams in 'pool D', the selection is possibly more important with 3 out of 4 matches being critical 'crunch' encounters. Not for them a couple of run-outs against Georgia and Romania, or the U.S.A. and Russia.

So with the clock showing 25 days to go and counting down, the only countries who can be happy as things stand are Australia and the host nation, along with perhaps Japan and Samoa. Fiji and Wales are back to winning ways but doubts still exist, and like the other participants, questions have to be answered and positions filled. This is of course assuming no more injuries are sustained in those final pre-tournament matches. 

Vinaka.

Marc@rugbymarc
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