11 timely returns from injury to make the Rugby World Cup

Rugby World Cup All Blacks Waisake Naholo, Ireland's Joey Carbery and Springboks' Siya Kolisi Credit: Alamy

Rugby World Cup All Blacks Waisake Naholo, Ireland’s Joey Carbery and Springboks’ Siya Kolisi Credit: Alamy

The Rugby World Cup warm-up matches are fast approaching, with the fixtures providing an anxious time for fans and players alike as they often produce injuries that end dreams.

While this has often been the case, the fixtures also allow players to stake late claims to make the World Cup squad or get back to full-match fitness from previous injuries.

With the tournament fast approaching, we look back at players who have overcome injuries just in time to feature in World Rugby’s showpiece event.

Aurélien Rougerie in 2011

In 2011, France star Aurélien Rougerie dislocated his ankle and ruptured his ligaments during a match between Clermont and Toulouse in May.

The then 30-year-old was set for four months on the sidelines but managed to get himself back to full fitness, featuring in the warm-up game against Ireland in August before playing throughout the tournament, including the final against New Zealand.

Fabien Barcella in 2011

Much like Rougerie, Fabien Barcella returned in the warm-up fixture against Ireland after recovering from a ruptured Achilles tendon in August 2010.

Despite the lengthy lay-off, the highly rated loosehead prop would go to the World Cup in New Zealand and feature throughout the tournament for Les Blues, mainly from the bench.

Jean de Villiers in 2015

A broken jaw saw Jean de Villiers miss a large chunk of 2015 through injury, and the Springboks veteran timed his return perfectly to be named as South Africa’s captain for the Rugby World Cup.

Unfortunately for the Bok great, he sustained an injury during the pool stage match against Samoa, which ended his Rugby World Cup campaign.

Waisake Naholo in 2015

When the All Blacks named their squad for the 2015 Rugby World Cup title defence, many were surprised to see the name Waisake Naholo.

The bulldozing winger’s questionable inclusion was not based on performances or form but rather the fact that the speedster had broken his leg on his Test debut just a month before the squad was named.

Miraculously, Naholo recovered in time to be included in Steve Hansen’s squad after he sought out alternative treatment in Fiji to make the World Cup.

Naholo’s uncle, Isei Naiova, told AFP at the time that Naholo returned to Fiji for traditional treatment and that he had no doubt that his age-old methods would restore his nephew to health in time.

“A lot of people don’t know about this healing process, and to them, it is a miracle cure,” Naiova said. “To me and my family, it’s simply making use of the gift from God and the traditional leaf.

“The kawakawarau leaf grows here in the village, but only some people like myself and my family members can heal injured people by this leaf because we have the gift from God. I have healed many Fijian rugby players, and I have seen players recover well and play rugby like nothing happened to them.

“From the time Naholo came here, I had no doubt he would play at the World Cup.”

Manu Tuilagi in 2019

After missing the 2015 Rugby World Cup, Manu Tuilagi looked certain to be absent for another showpiece tournament, with a string of injuries between 2016 and the end of 2018 limiting him to just two Test caps for England.

However, it all clicked for Tuilagi in 2019 when he featured for England throughout the Six Nations and made the final squad for the tournament, helping Eddie Jones‘ side reach the final.

Henry Slade and Jack Nowell in 2019

While Tuilagi was available to Jones throughout 2019, Henry Slade and Jack Nowell weren’t, with the Exeter Chiefs pair missing the four warm-up games ahead of the World Cup.

That did not bother Jones as he selected the duo for the tournament in Japan, with both featuring prominently and Slade even starting the final against the Springboks.

Leigh Halfpenny in 2011

In 2011, 23-year-old Leigh Halfpenny had played 19 internationals on the wing for Wales and was facing a race against time to feature in his maiden Rugby World Cup.

Luckily, after a punishing rehabilitation programme, Halfpenny was able to play Wales’ final warm-up match against Argentina before cracking the nod to make the final squad for the tournament in New Zealand.

It was at the tournament that Halfpenny would switch to full-back, starting in the position against Ireland, France and Australia.

Warren Gatland picked him just once more on the wing against Japan in 2016.

Gethin Jenkins in 2011

Gethin Jenkins endured a tough run of injuries ahead of the 2011 Rugby World Cup in New Zealand.

In 2010, he damaged a calf muscle in the defeat to New Zealand before sustaining a toe injury, which sidelined him for the 2011 Six Nations.

He put the challenging run of injuries behind him and made his first appearance for Wales in the 2011 Pool D game against Samoa.

He would represent his country in five World Cup matches as Wales reached the semi-finals, where they were beaten 9-8 by France.

Siya Kolisi in 2019

It’s been an unfortunate trend for the Springboks captain, whose World Cup preparations seemingly get hit by injury.

Four years ago, Siya Kolisi was ruled out of the Rugby Championship after sustaining a knee injury while playing for the Stormers. He recovered just in time to play the World Cup warm-up games against Argentina and Japan before leading his country to a third World Cup title.

Much like in 2019, Kolisi is currently nursing a knee injury picked up while playing for the Sharks and is in a race against time to feature at the World Cup.

Joey Carbery in 2019

During the 2019 Rugby World Cup warm-up fixture against Italy, Ireland fans and coaches were left sweating over the fitness of Joey Carbery.

The then 23-year-old was seen as Johnny Sexton’s back-up for the 2019 tournament in Japan and had up a fine game against the Azzurri up until the 50th minute.

Carbery was carted off the pitch with an ankle injury; fortunately for the fly-half, he was able to recover in time to be included in Ireland’s World Cup squad.

Unfortunately for the playmaker, his first appearance at the World Cup came off the bench in the historic 19-12 defeat to Japan.

Leonardo Ghiraldini in 2019

Unfortunately, this one does not have a happy ending. During the 2019 Six Nations, former Azzurri captain Leonardo Ghiraldini tore the ACL in his knee, which looked set to rule him out for the remainder of the year.

However, the veteran hooker managed to recover in time to prove his fitness for the World Cup and would feature in Italy’s final pool stage match against New Zealand.

Ghiraldini had even been named in the matchday squad to face the All Blacks, but his dream send-off at the World Cup was crushed when Typhoon Hagibis led to the fixture being cancelled.

READ MORE: Rugby World Cup: Two Cents Rugby maps out the potential routes to the final

The article 11 timely returns from injury to make the Rugby World Cup appeared first on Planetrugby.com.

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