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Injured Wallaby centre 'not out the woods'

Wallabies centre Lalakai Foketi has been cleared of major spinal damage, but it remains unclear if a neck injury suffered at the Waratahs’ training is career-threatening.

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Waratahs coach Darren Coleman on Friday said an initial CT scan was encouraging, but that Foketi was “by no stretch out of the woods”.

“The CT scan was positive,” Coleman said after Foketi was taken to Prince of Wales Hospital on Thursday in a neck brace.

“He had that yesterday [Thursday] and that showed no major spinal damage or no vertebral sort of cracks or things like that.

“I’m obviously not a doctor, but he’s just got to stay in a little bit longer now to have an MRI.

“That’ll just determine what sort of soft-tissue damage there is around ligaments, if there’s been any bleeding around the spinal cord, those sort of things.

“So he’s by no stretch out of the woods yet, but the first news is all pretty positive, that there won’t be anything too permanent or debilitating.”

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Coleman said it was far too early to know if and when Foketi could return to playing.

“He’ll have the MRI today [Friday],” he added.

“All going well, he’ll be in a neck brace and get released today [Friday], and he’s pretty keen to get home and then he’ll start his road to recovery from that,” the coach said.

“I really hope for La’s sake that it’s not a career-threatening thing.

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“But if you’ve got instability in that area, risk and reward needs to be taken into consideration.

“So, yeah, way too early to say. I couldn’t even speculate as to what the recovery will be.”

Coleman admitted the injury, apparently sustained in an innocuous ruck situation, was disturbing for the entire playing group and coaching staff.

“I sat with him there waiting for the ambulance and, yeah, it’s the unknown,” he said.

“He was in a bit of pain, obviously, but it was more the fear of the unknown.

“It was a bit of an ordinary scene for him, and everyone was really worried at the time around what the extent of his injuries were.

“And it happened in front of his teammates. It wasn’t great. It was confronting for the team when you see your mate go like that, and it sort of hits home.

“[It] hits home to me, particularly what these guys put themselves through not only each week, but each training run.

“There’s a lot of contact involved in our sport and all it needs is what happened with La just to land on the ground a slightly wrong way, a push from behind or whatever it may be – and it can be catastrophic.”

The 2023 World Cup squad member will remain in hospital for further monitoring and tests.

“I had quite a few conversations with La last night and this morning. He’s on the improve mentally and he’s starting to get his spirits back about him,” Coleman said.

“He’s been well supported by all the support networks of our club, our player development manager, our doctors just left him up at the hospital there now.

“And obviously he’s got his beautiful wife and dad up there with him, so everyone’s around him supporting him.”

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