August 18, 2011
Danny Care will miss the World Cup but he is not the only well known name to sit out rugby's showpiece tournament © Getty Images
There is never a good time to get injured and with a Rugby World Cup just around the corner you have to feel for a host of star players that have been ruled out of action within touching distance of the sport's showpiece event.
The past couple of weeks have been particularly brutal for some players, their coaches and supporters and while they raid their first aid reserves for cotton wool in the hope of preventing yet further heartache, we profile some of those that have seen their World Cup hopes dashed by injury.
The 24-year-old has been a familiar face in the England set-up since his debut back in August 2008. Despite experiencing a baptism of fire in the form of a 37-20 loss to the All Blacks, Care has since accrued an impressive 32 Test caps at a relatively young age. Despite England possessing a wealth of talent at half-back, with Wasps' Joe Simpson and Saracens' Richard Wigglesworth also pushing for international honours, Care was a safe bet for a place on the plane and set to vie with Leicester Tigers' Ben Youngs of the starting No.9 shirt.
However, despite being arguably England's inform scrum-half at the close of the 2010-11 season, Care will not be on-show at the World Cup having been cruelly ruled out of action with a broken toe. With Youngs yet to play for England since the Six Nations as he battles back from knee surgery, Care had started against Wales in their first warm-up Test and featured prominently from the bench in the return leg. England boss Martin Johnson now faces the task of re-adjusting his plans at half-back with Wigglesworth or Simpson set to profit from Care's loss.
Arguably one of the world's greatest ever flankers and without doubt one of the most influential players of his generation, Smith is the latest of our selection to admit defeat in his battle to be fit for the World Cup. The 30-year-old has been in a race against time since undergoing surgery on his Achilles tendon back in February after picking up the injury whilst on Super Rugby duty for the Cheetahs.
A veteran of the two previous World Cups, Smith was a key figure in South Africa's run to the title four years ago - a fact not lost on Boks coach Peter de Villiers who gave him every chance to prove his fitness. In the end, it was Smith himself who ruled himself out of the equation, commenting, "I won't be able to give everything and realise I should put my team, team-mates and the Bok fans first. I must stop lying to myself." Joining him in watching the World Cup unfold via a TV screen will be Boks lock Andries Bekker, a victim of an ankle injury.
The headline-hogging Henson suffered his World Cup-ending injury in the same match as Care at the Millennium Stadium last weekend. The controversial inside centre impressed in a 30-minute cameo but saw his World Cup hopes dashed by a dislocated right wrist. Subsequent surgery is set to sideline the 29-year-old for 6-8 weeks and as a result he will miss out on Warren Gatland's 30-man squad for the World Cup. His only chance of gracing the World Cup for the first time is as an injury replacement, should any of his squad-mates suffer a set-back during the tournament itself.
Much has been written about Henson - his unceremonious exit from the Ospreys, his short stay at Saracens and his controversy-fuelled stint with Toulon - but on his day he possesses the ability to frighten even the most battle hardened of defences. Despite being unattached - both in club and private life - one thing is for sure - rugby has not seen the last of the tangoed Henson.
The mesmeric and mercurial fly-half-come-fullback has the ability to make even the most disgruntled opposition fan sit up and take notice with his penchant for sheer brilliance. Excessive praise? Well 'El Mago' can also tackle - just ask Alesana Tuilagi. And he has previously received praise from another Argentinean 'god'.
"I was at an airport after the  World Cup, and the phone rang," he recalled. "A voice said, 'It's Diego Maradona.' Of course, I did not believe it. But he kept on claiming to be Maradona and I had to believe him. We spoke and he congratulated me on what I had done and he even mentioned a drop goal I had scored with my left foot against Ireland. He is left-footed but I didn't tell him that my right foot is my stronger. When I put the phone down, I could not speak for two minutes. My girlfriend got anxious. 'Who was that? What has happened?' she asked. To speak with Maradona was absolutely incredible."
However, the Pumas will have to do without their creative inspiration as they bid to reproduce the kind of form that propelled them to a third place finish four years ago. The Racing Metro back suffered a right knee injury in March playing in the Top 14 despite his best efforts to regain fitness, failed to prove to coach Santiago Phelan that he was good to go. Pumas fans should not overly mourn his absence with the likes of Gonzalo Camacho and Felipe Contepomi they still possess enough creative license in order to create waves similar to that of 2007.
The British & Irish Lions hooker looked set to lead Wales into the World Cup after captaining the side throughout their 2011 Six Nations campaign. However, Rees will now sit out the tournament after failing to recover from a neck problem that is set to lead to surgery. Despite possessing an embarrassment of riches in the front-row department, Wales will definitely miss their skipper. Never one to shirk a challenge, Rees looked set to follow Gethin Jenkins to the World Cup having not played a minute of rugby in the warm-up Tests but it was left to Wales' assistant coach Shaun Edwards to reveal the extent of Rees' pain.
"Matthew normally has a bit of banter and a joke but he is not like himself because he is in such pain," Edwards said. "You have to take the doctor's opinion and get it done because you can't live your life like that. We are gutted he is not leading us at the Rugby World Cup but it will be good to see him back leading a normal life without pain. He can't sleep and he is in constant agony."
Wales' injury woes do not end there with Morgan Stoddart also set to miss out having suffered an horrendous injury suffered against England earlier this month. The Scarlets fullback looked to be on the verge of making Gatland's 30-man squad but a broken left leg ended his chances.
Wallabies prop Robinson has the ability to mix it with the world's best front-rower and he is partly responsible for the rebuilding of Australia's reputation as a forward force. He looked destined to form a key part of Australia's World Cup assault until a knee ligament injury left his hopes hanging by a thread. The prospect of a first World Cup appearance saw the 27-year-old initially opt against surgery but his gamble failed to pay off and he finally had to admit defeat and go under the knife in the hope of being fit for next season.
Robinson is not the only high profile Wallabies international set to miss the World Cup. No.8 Richard Brown will sit out the competition to undergo shoulder reconstruction while lock Mark Chisholm will also be staying at home after rupturing his ACL.
Southwell's case is slightly different to that of the others in this fine list having ended his World Cup campaign by 'mutual consent.' The soon-to-be Wasps fullback was hopeful of recovering from his knee injury in time for the tournament and looked to be on track. However, his original return date would have meant he would miss the majority of their World Cup build-up and following discussions with boss Andy Robinson he decided it was right for the 59-cap back to focus on prolonging his club career.
At that stage Southwell was still unattached having left Stade Francais at the end of the season. However, he was soon snapped up by Aviva Premiership side Wasps and the fullback will hope to return to the kind of form that produced this effort against Montpellier last season.
© ESPN Sports Media Ltd.
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