x Abu Dhabi, UAEFriday 21 July 2017

UAE's 'bad luck' with injuries strikes again

South African playmaker Russell suffered a broken fibula in heavy defeat to Hong Kong.

Andy Russell had to wait for his turn to play for the UAE but his appearance proved to be a very short one.
Andy Russell had to wait for his turn to play for the UAE but his appearance proved to be a very short one.

DUBAI // The UAE will have to salvage their HSBC Asian Five Nations campaign without the services of Andy Russell after the fly-half broke a leg bone in Friday night's defeat against Hong Kong.

The Johannesburg-born back is expected to undergo surgery within the next 48 hours, after he suffered a broken fibula and ligament damage. "He is expected to make a full recovery," said Ian Bremner, the chief executive of the Rugby Association.

"Fortunately, the consultant involved understands Andy needs specialist help, that he doesn't just need to be brought back to health, but to be brought back to sport fitness."

Russell's injury is an especially bitter blow given that UAE rugby had so excitedly awaited the debut of one of the most gifted players ever to have plied his trade on these shores.

The Jebel Ali Dragons playmaker had been as good as measured up for a starting jersey in the representative team as soon as he arrived here in 2008 after leaving university in his native South Africa.

In making his first appearance for the national team in the warm-up Test in Tunisia earlier this month, he became the third member of his family to play international sport.

His brother Brent played for the Springboks, while his sister Shelley plays hockey internationally for South Africa.

Russell's injury, suffered late in the 85-10 defeat in the opening game of the Asian Five Nations, is the latest in a series of ill luck to have hit UAE players.

In recent times, players from the national team have suffered ailments as varied as broken cheekbones, torn hamstrings and even blood clots on the lungs. Perhaps appropriately, the team's vice-captain, Tim Fletcher, is a physiotherapist.

He fears it will be some months before his teammate returns to the playing field. "It is a huge shame and a real loss to our team," said Fletcher, who is also a clubmate of Russell's at the Dragons.

"He is such a talented guy. The chance of playing alongside him and Murray [Strang, the Abu Dhabi Harlequin who will assume Russell's No 10 shirt for the next match in Japan] was really exciting.

"The preparation has been good and the guys are definitely fit enough and strong enough, but we have had a run of bad luck, that's for sure."

The concern was obvious for Duncan Hall, the UAE performance manager, as soon as Russell was carried off on a stretcher, prompting him to leave his vantage point with the replacements in the stand to move to the side of the pitch to check on his stricken player's condition.

The Australian coach predicted "that is [the end] of his season" immediately after the game, while Russell was on his way to hospital for X-rays. "It is dreadful timing," Bremner said. "Injuries always are, but for a guy who has been biding his time [before debuting for the national team] it couldn't have come at a worse time.

"We have sourced the best expertise here in Dubai to make sure that everything is positive from here on in."