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WALLABIES five-eighth Stephen Larkham was last night rushed to hospital as a knee injury left his World Cup in crisis.

The injury means rookie five-eighth Berrick Barnes is on the verge of an amazing promotion. Larkham underwent scans and is in grave doubt for tonight's Pool B showdown with Wales, but also faces lingering concerns that the damage could end his Test career.

The Wallabies centurion, on his final campaign in national colours before retiring from international rugby, was hurt during the closing minutes of the Australian team's game-eve training run at the Welsh Institute of Sport.

The secret session, closed to the media and public, was reaching its conclusion when Larkham had his knee lock-up while practicing drop kick restarts with second rower Nathan Sharpe.

He slumped to his haunches, told a team official he was "f.....", and called for medical treatment.

"I don't know how it is, we're going off for an MRI now," Larkham revealed to The Daily Telegraph in the foyer of the Wallabies team hotel later.

He returned 90 minutes later in more positive spirits with Wallabies coach John Connolly saying his priceless playmaker would have a fitness check just hours before the game with Wales.

"He's aggravated an old injury," said Connolly.

"He'll have treatment, he's 50-50, we'll see how he pulls up after a sleep."

Connolly confirmed that Barnes, who scored two tries on his Test debut against Japan in Lyon last week, would start if Larkham fails to recover.

"Im ready for it, yeah," said Barnes.

Concerned team officials had tried to keep a lid on the incident which threatens to seriously undermine the Australian ***le challenge if the premier playmaker is sidelined for an extended period or, at worst, rubbed out of the tournament.

When the injury happened, it halted Wallabies training and sent an eerie silence through the camp.

"You couldn't hear a thing," one of the Wallabies staff told The Saturday Daily Telegraph later.

"The place just stopped completely."

Larkham missing the Welsh match was not the most significant cloud that hung over the Wallabies World Cup challenge in the early hours of this morning.

He has been billed as the most irreplaceable figure in the Australian bid for the Webb Ellis trophy.

Without him, can the Australians mount a genuine challenge for the ***le? Can they possibly hope to beat the likes of the All Blacks or the Springboks if their princely playmaker, the man who has run the show for more than a decade, for more than 100 Tests, is not there in the No. 10 jumper?



Not sure about Berrick at 10, i think he could do the job but surely the most obvious decision would be to move Gitz to flyhalf and bring Staniforth in to play 12, non?... it would certainly make me feel a little more confident.
Oh, and the Welsh have poisoned Latham...

WALLABIES fullback Chris Latham was last night battling a viral infection that has raised concerns in the World Cup camp on the eve of the clash with Wales.

Latham revealed he has yet to train since the Australians crushed Japan 91-3 in Lyon five days ago.

But the hero of last year's draw with Wales -- with a late solo try at Millennium Stadium -- said he would not miss the Pool B game.

"I'm not worried," he said.

"I haven't trained with the team at all this week but it's not really that disruptive.

"In some ways it might be a good thing. The Japan game was my first full match in a while, so to get the break won't be detrimental.

"I've done a lot of work to get back (from a pre-season knee reconstruction) and it's only if you missed a couple of weeks' training that it might hinder your fitness."

Latham, who spent the final session in Montpellier on light kicking and passing duties, aims to train tonight in Cardiff



Should even things up a bit - Wallabies by 48. :)
Whether its Latham or Larkham, being injured is never nice, especially when one possesses such talent!

Wishing him a complete and speedy recovery
Losing Larkham will be a huge blow but not fatal. Barnes is a very talented young player and one of a host of good young 10s coming up in Australia. You could also move Gits to 10 and start Staniforth at 12.
words is if larkham is ruled out barnes will start.

Connolly said Barnes would be selected rather than move Matt Giteau from inside centre to number 10.

"We wouldn't play him if we didn't think so," Connolly said of Barnes. "Giteau three or four weeks ago was the back up 10 and still is maybe long term but he hasn't trained there all week."

While Larkham's injury would be a huge blow to the Wallabies, I think the key to the game really lies in the back row. If Smith, Elsom and Palu all fire I don't think Wales have the ability to counter at the breakdown. If that happens then regardless of who is at 5/8 Australia has a backline capable of scoring the necessary points. If the Welsh can match it with the Aussie back row, however, then its going to be very very tight.
Larkham is out. And may be out of the whole tournament. Come on Berick. Its time to step up
Can't wait to see how Barnes goes with a decent backline to work with. Looks like we could see Beale if Larkham is gone.
I was wiping away some sweat with a sigh of relief when i heard Larkham wasn't playing today.
Evidently that was some very premature wiping.
Very impressive, looked like Barnes was a 50 Test vetran rather than a player that has played 20 minutes to Test footy.
With the likes of Berrick Barnes, Kurtly Beale, Josh Holmes, Matt Giteau, Lachie Turner, Digby Ioane, AAC etc, Aussie backline play has some exciting times ahead in the near future
By the sounds of it, Larkham will be sitting out the next pool match and will have a run in the last game before the quarters. Barnes will benefit further from this.

Could Larkhams injury have been a blessing in disguise?

If Larkham is in fact back for the quarters, then Barnes will have gained valuable experience which will ultimately make him a better player in a shorter period of time.
Adding to the 5/8s listed above Lealiifano and Daruda. Could also add SNK.

This is definitely working out as if Larkham brakes down in the vital matches Barnes will be able to step in with more experience.
Definetly not good to hear, hope he comes back and finishes off his career at the wc, but saying that Barnes last night stepped up to the plate and put in an awesome performance for his first starting cap, shows the no.10 jersey is in safe hands for plenty of years to come.

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