No major spinal damage for Wallabies centre Foketi: Coach

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Wallabies centre Lalakai Foketi has been cleared of any major spinal damage after a serious training injury but New South Wales Waratahs coach Darren Coleman said today it was still possible that it could mean the end of the 29-year-old’s career.

Foketi, a powerful centre who played in Australia’s ill-fated campaign at last year’s World Cup, received lengthy medical treatment at the Waratahs’ training ground yesterday before being taken to hospital by ambulance for scans.

“The CT scan was positive. He had that yesterday and that showed no major spinal damage or no vertebral cracks or things like that,” Coleman told reporters.

“He’s just got to stay in a little bit longer now to have an MRI. That’ll determine what sort of soft-tissue damage there is around ligaments (and) if there’s been any bleeding around the spinal cord, those sorts of things.

“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.”

Coleman said Foketi would have the MRI scan today.

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

“I really hope for La’s sake that it’s not a career-threatening thing but if you’ve got instability in that area, risk and reward needs to be taken into consideration.”

Foketi’s misfortune means teenager Max Jorgensen moves into the starting Waratahs team for Saturday’s Super Rugby Pacific round one clash against the Queensland Reds at Brisbane’s Lang Park.

The 19-year-old prodigy, who is returning from injury and was initially named on the bench, will start at fullback with the versatile Joey Walton moving forward to replace Foketi at inside centre.