It is 74 days before the Rugby World Cup starts in Japan, and head coaches will be becoming increasingly nervous as to when their injured players will return.
There is a spate of injured players across the world, primarily from the southern hemisphere after a tough Super Rugby season, and time is running out.
While there are some players that have been completely ruled out of the World Cup, here is a XV of those fighting to be fit for when the competition starts on September 20th.
15 Jack Nowell
England’s Nowell sustained a nasty ankle injury for Exeter Chiefs in the Premiership final against Saracens, which he has had surgery on. Exeter coach Steve Baxter has said that he should be fit for the World Cup, but faces a race to be match fit come the first game in Japan.
14 Jordan Petaia
The 19-year-old Reds three quarter has not represented the Wallabies yet, but looked to be Australia’s next sensation at the beginning of the Super Rugby season. He was ruled out for the season in March with a foot injury, but has made his comeback. A question mark remains as to whether he will be ready in time for the World Cup.
13 Jan Serfontein
The Montpellier centre was a surprise omission from Rassie Erasmus’ recent Springboks squad, but it was later revealed that he has had surgery on his ankle. He is clearly on the radar of the South African coaching team, but faces a fight to recover.
12 Sonny Bill Williams
The double World Cup winner has had a season dogged by injury, only managing three Super Rugby starts for the Blues. Nonetheless, he was named in Steve Hansen’s All Blacks squad for the start of the Rugby Championship, but a tight hamstring has put him on the sidelines again as he persistently struggles to remain fit.
11 Bautista Delguy
Argentina’s Delguy was a member of the rampant Jaguares team before an ankle injury ended his season in March. He made his debut for the Pumas last year, but now faces an uphill battle to make it back in time for the World Cup.
10 Damian Willemse
At 21 years of age, Willemse is one of South Africa’s emerging stars. Unfortunately, his season was cut short in June after having knee surgery. He is still expected to make the World Cup, but Erasmus will be acutely aware that recovery times may take longer than expected.
9 Gonzalo Bertranou
Bertranou ended his 2018 very well, starting in Argentina’s final test match of the year against Scotland, as well as becoming a regular in Mario Ledesma’s squad. But a traumatic shoulder dislocation in the Jaguares opening game of the season has thrown the scrum-half’s World Cup hopes in doubt.
8 David Pocock
Pocock has perhaps had the most publicised injury leading up to the World Cup. He has a ‘rare’ calf problem, which first ruled him out of the rest of the Super Rugby season after only playing a handful of games. He has now been ruled out of the beginning of the Rugby Championship, and as the World Cup grows closer, it is still no clearer whether the Australian talisman will be there.
— RugbyPass (@RugbyPass) July 4, 2019
7 Siya Kolisi
The Springboks skipper was having a wonderful season for the Stormers when a knee injury ended it in May. While the flanker has not had surgery, his return date is not known yet. While he will still have some role to play at the World Cup, everyone involved with the Springboks will want him to be 100% fit.
6 Ellis Jenkins
Jenkins has long been regarded as a future star for Wales, but a devastating ACL injury against the Springboks in November ruined his season. He has subsequently had two surgeries on his knee, and the Wales camp have remained coy as to whether he will make the World Cup.
5 Ruan Botha
The Springboks have had some injury scares in recent weeks, with Eben Etzebeth sustaining a hand injury. But the uncapped Botha may be the biggest concern after having surgery on his foot. He is an outside bet to make the World Cup, but an injury would foil his chances of impressing at the Rugby Championship.
4 George Kruis
Kruis finished the season for Saracens with no apparent injury, but is one of three England players in camp for rehabilitation after ankle surgery. Eddie Jones remains confident he will be ready for the World Cup, but he may not play any of the warm-up games.
3 Tim Perry
Although a loosehead prop, Perry is on this list due to the lack of injuries to tightheads. The Crusaders front-row was omitted from the All Blacks squad recently due to injury alongside Ryan Crotty and Scott Barrett, and a return date is unknown.
2 Dylan Hartley
England’s second-most capped player Hartley has not played a game of rugby in 2019 due to a knee injury. While many thought his World Cup chances were all but over, Jones has refused to rule out his go-to captain, although some will understandably have their doubts.
1 Mako Vunipola
Alongside Nowell and Kruis, Vunipola is one of the three players in the England camp for rehabilitation after sustaining a torn hamstring in the Champions Cup final, which required surgery. While he may still make the World Cup warm-up games, but hamstring injuries take a while to return to full fitness.
Sign up to our mailing list here and we’ll keep you up to the minute with weekly updates from the world of rugby.