Shepherd ruled out of Cheetahs clash - Sports News - Fanatics - the world's biggest events

Shepherd ruled out of Cheetahs clash

19/02/2009 08:18:33 PM Comments (0)

Western Force skipper Nathan Sharpe has backed Super 14 teammate Cameron Shepherd to rebound from his latest injury hurdle and push his case for a Wallabies recall.

Shepherd's return from a badly fractured ankle hit a snag last week when he pulled up sore after playing the entire 80 minutes of the Force's 25-19 season-opening loss to the Blues.

The skillful 24-year-old, who also featured in the Force's two pre-season trial games, has been ruled out of Friday's clash with the Cheetahs at Subiaco Oval but is expected to return for next week's encounter with the Brumbies in Canberra.

However, club officials admit Shepherd's injury will have to be managed throughout the season, meaning the dashing fullback could be rested several more times this year.

Drew Mitchell and Adam Ashley Cooper have been used at fullback by Wallabies coach Robbie Deans since Shepherd suffered the injury against France last July.

But Sharpe was confident Shepherd, who has notched nine Test caps, would reclaim his position in the national side once he got his body right.

"He's been working hard to come back ... it's been a credit to him to get this far and minor setbacks are a part of everyday life I suppose," Sharpe said.

"The physical side of things is always the last thing to come back for a player from that sort of injury.

"His speed and his natural rhythm of running are the things that are going to take the most time, but I thought he was doing really well.

"He's definitely in the top two or three (fullbacks in the country), without a doubt ... and as soon as he's fully fit I'm sure he'll be very much up there for selection in the Wallabies."

Force coach John Mitchell made a raft of changes to the squad that lost their way against the Blues.

Scrumhalf Josh Valentine, winger Nick Cummins, inside centre James O'Connor and props Gareth Hardy and Ben Castle make their way into the starting XV, while utility back Scott Staniforth, who has recovered from knee surgery, has been named on the bench.

Mitchell will revert to fullback in the absence of Shepherd, with Cummins to play on the left wing and Haig Sare on the right.

The Cheetahs were unable to consider speedy winger Jongi Nokwe (hand), while Piet van Zyl will replace centre Corne Uys (concussion).

Sharpe said the Force would have to be on high alert against a Cheetahs unit possessing a big pack and flair in the backline.

"The Cheetahs have a very physical and powerful pack and out of all the South African teams probably play with the most width," Sharpe said.

"So it's certainly not a team we are going to try to run around, that would be a monumental task."

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