Sheridan injury leaves Johnson plenty to ponder

ENGLAND prop Andrew Sheridan and French fly-half David Skrela hobbled home from the World Cup just as Samoa entered the fray with a resounding win and New Zealanders fretted about the back of prized asset Dan Carter.

On the field, Canada fought back to claim an opening 25-20 win over Tonga in an entertaining match in Whangarei while Scotland overcame eastern European opposition for the second match in-a-row as they beat Georgia 15-6.

But for all the good play on the field, Wednesday stood out for injuries as Sheridan became the latest casualty of Saturday’s brutal Pool B clash between England and Argentina.

“It’s a big blow to leave the World Cup through injury, but it’s a significant injury to the shoulder, so I have to deal with that and get on with it now,” Sheridan said in a statement.

England manager Martin Johnson already has four other props in his squad and is yet to call up a replacement for the clash with Georgia on Sunday.

France coach Marc Lièvremont does not have such riches, however, with only one fit fly-half after Skrela’s World Cup ended after just 11 minutes of action against Japan. Lièvremont has called up uncapped Jean-Marc Doussain but the 20-year-old must first play for his club Toulouse against Biarritz on Friday, leaving the French with just Francois Trinh-Duc as the probable starter for the remaining Pool A matches.

France play Canada in Napier on Sunday before facing tournament favourites New Zealand on September 24.

While the importance of Trinh-Duc’s health rocketed in the French camp his value to the team remains minor in comparison to the importance of Carter to New Zealand. The indispensable fly-half was scratched, having been earlier named, in the All Blacks team because of a sore back meaning a late call up for understudy Colin Slade.

Carter’s injury took the gloss of what should have been a day of celebration in the New Zealand squad with Richie McCaw set to become the first All Black to win 100 caps after being named to face Japan in Hamilton on Friday. “He’s an inspirational person for New Zealanders, and the team, by being the person that he is and the way he plays the game,” Graham Henry said of his captain’s achievement.

The same cannot be said for Tri-Nations rivals South Africa. The Springboks have been hit by a series of problems since the start of the World Cup and winger Bryan Habana became the latest victim after being ruled out of the clash with Fiji. Habana has a knee injury and joins lock duo Victor Matfield (hamstring) and Bakkies Botha (Achilles) and centre Jean de Villiers (ribs) on the sidelines for the holder’s Pool D match in Wellington on Saturday.

Other than the All Blacks, the only other side to beat the Wallabies this year is Samoa. They gave another demonstration of their powerful running game in a six-try 49-12 victory over Namibia to start their Pool D campaign with a bonus point win. Huge winger Alesana Tuilagi claimed a hat-trick of tries in Rotorua as the Samoans sent out a warning ahead of Sunday’s pivotal clash with Wales. In Invercargill, 15 points from the boot of Dan Parks helped Scotland overcome just four days rest, wet conditions and a bruising Georgian pack to collect their second win from two matches in Pool B.

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