France's Skrela out of RWC due to shoulder injury
Updated: September 14, 2011, 01:10
Send to a friend
TAKAPUNA, New Zealand(AP) France coach Marc Lievremont surprisingly overlooked the experience of Frederic Michalak and called up untested utility half Jean-Marc Doussain to replace the injured David Skrela at the Rugby World Cup.
Skrela was ruled out of the tournament on Wednesday and will be sidelined for several weeks after injuring his shoulder in the team's opening match against Japan last week.
Lievremont announced the withdrawal at a news conference and overlooked two-time World Cup player Michalak, who has 54 caps, in favor of 20-year-old Doussain, who only signed his first professional contract last May with Toulouse.
"When he chose the (original World Cup) squad, Michalak wasn't playing much for his club (Toulouse),'' Lievremont said. "He's played since in South Africa, but I haven't seen him play for a long time.''
Doussain will arrive next Tuesday, and is unlikely to be in the squad to face New Zealand four days later.
"I hope we don't have any more injuries against Canada because it will be difficult for him to be on the teamsheet,'' Lievremont said. "Give him time to get over his jet lag and settle in with us, otherwise we'll have to rush things.''
Another injury to one of his halves would seriously hamper France.
Lievremont has only one specialist flyhalf left in Francois Trinh-Duc - and he starts against Canada.
Scrumhalf Morgan Parra, who replaced Skrela at No. 10 against Japan, can double up at standoff, as can fullback Damien Traille - although Lievremont would be reluctant to pick him there.
Michalak last played for France in February 2010, while Doussain's rapid progression through the ranks means he is fully versed in how Lievremont expects French teams to play.
"Because of his good form with this club at the end of last season, his good World Cup performance with the under-20s, Jean-Marc was our priority choice,'' Lievremont said. "He has the ability to play at the highest level.''
Doussain can also fill in at center and fullback. His Toulouse teammates compared him to a young version of former New Zealand scrumhalf Byron Kelleher - his predecessor at Toulouse - because of his aggressive style.
Skrela received heavy bruising to his right shoulder and a compressed nerve that temporarily stopped the mobility in his arm after coming on as a second-half replacement in the 47-21 win against Japan in Pool A on Saturday
"Obviously I am disappointed to leave. I've been preparing for this tournament for a long time, but these are the ups and downs of sport,'' said Skrela, who has previously undergone operations on both shoulders.
"After the Japan match, I feared the worst and thought I'd need an operation. That wasn't the case, but four days later I still have problems with (my shoulder) mobility. The muscle isn't working at all, which makes it a bit complicated to play rugby, especially at a World Cup.
"My teammates are disappointed for me; it's very emotional to have to leave them after you've prepared for two months together.''
Skrela preferred not to hang around.
"The team needs to concentrate on the match, and I also need to get back home to see my family,'' he said.
Two-time finalist France next plays Canada on Sunday but Doussain won't be available for the match. The French then play New Zealand and Tonga.
"He will play this weekend for his club, although I would have liked him here earlier,'' Lievremont said. "Despite his young age, he's shown a lot of maturity for the under-21s. I see him as the ideal contender for this position. He's very aggressive, very spontaneous and he's got a lot of character. All the coaches who've worked with him at every level have said how good his attitude is.
"We decided yesterday that David could no longer be competitive for us. After consulting several experts, it was apparent that he needs several weeks to be competitive.''
Skrela was the second player to be ruled out of the tournament on Wednesday because of a shoulder injury.
England prop Andrew Sheridan's injury-blighted career continued after a recurrence of his left shoulder problems forced his exit. The Rugby Football Union said Sheridan would return to England for treatment after he was hurt in the opening Pool B win over Argentina.
The giant loosehead prop has had two operations on his left shoulder since dislocating it in October 2009 and had only just returned from surgery on his right shoulder.