Injury fears dominate as semi-finals loom

AUCKLAND, (Reuters) – Australia fullback Kurtley Beale was given 24 hours yesterday to prove his fitness for tomorrow’s World Cup semi-final against New Zealand as the relentless pressures of tournament rugby took their toll on the remaining four teams.

Beale was bracketed with Adam Ashley-Cooper in the Wallaby team after aggravating a hamstring injury in the quarter-final win over South Africa, while prop Sekope Kepu retains his place after receiving treatment on an ankle injury.
“He’s (Beale) obviously not 100 percent, none of them are,” coach Robbie Deans told reporters. “Everyone has their own little challenges.”

France scrumhalf Dimitri Yachvili, whose personal challenge is a badly bruised thigh, will start for France against Wales on today  but hands over kicking duties to halfback partner Morgan Parra.

If Yachvili is forced to leave the field, uncapped utility back Jean Marc Doussain will take over, leaving Parra free to concentrate on his goal-kicking duties rather than revert to his specialist position of scrumhalf.

The injury causing immensely more concern in New Zealand is the ankle problem afflicting All Blacks’ captain Richie McCaw, who has barely trained this week while he manages a chronic right foot injury.

McCaw’s contribution as leader and openside flanker is crucial to the All Blacks’ cause and he will play through the pain barrier tomorrow.

“You have to be pragmatic and he’s doing that,” coach Graham Henry said. “Some other people might push and not play, he’s not pushing it so he can play so he’s making good decisions.”

After a week of heavy showers, the sun finally shone on Eden Park yesterday at the start of a weekend which will feature the best attacking sides in the tournament.

Wales are brimming with confidence after disposing of Ireland last weekend while France believe they have unfinished business after losing two of their pool matches, including an embarrassing defeat by Tonga.

“A good (quarter-final) match against England isn’t enough to rid us of all our frustrations,” coach Marc Lievremont said yesterday. “It was a good match against England but that wasn’t enough to free us. We now need to make sure we don’t miss this opportunity that we have been given in the semi-finals.”

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