- 4 Oct 07, 01:22 PM
Paris - Just a day after learning he would get a shot at redemption, Andy Farrell has been ruled out of Saturday’s quarter-final clash with Australia.
The Saracens centre has suffered a catalogue of injuries since his switch from rugby league in 2005 and now he has another to add to the list.
Farrell has had plenty of detractors since his arrival in union - Jeremy Guscott, Matt Dawson and Stuart Barnes being three who have questioned his selection for England. And his display in the defeat against South Africa did little to silence the sceptics.
However, he responded with a try after coming on against Tonga as a replacement and coach Brian Ashton backed his man to add some power and grunt to unsettle and shackle the Aussies.
It was a big call but Farrell, a fierce and gritty competitor as he showed time and time again for Wigan and Great Britain, would have relished the prospect of proving the doubters wrong by helping England record another famous win over the Wallabies.
That chance has now been taken away from him.
And even the harshest of critics would find it hard not to feel some degree of sympathy for the 32-year-old, who of course was signed up by the Rugby Football Union with this very tournament in mind.
So Ashton’s dreadful luck with injuries continues and he now has to sit down with his management team and ponder how to plug the Farrell-sized hole in midfield.
Olly Barkley is the first name that springs to mind. That could be a difficult one to justify though as he was dropped for this game in the first place because of his defensive struggles against Tonga.
Jonny Wilkinson’s Newcastle team-mate Toby Flood, called up after the injury to fellow Falcon Jamie Noon, is also a consideration, as is the veteran Mike Catt.
Flood shone in the Six Nations victory over France but that was at fly-half, and Ashton could even be tempted to place him at number 10 and move Wilkinson to 12. Hang on, didn't Wilkinson play at 12 for the Lions in New Zealand? Maybe not then.
But with England facing the prospect of stopping Aussie centres Matt Giteau and Stirling Mortlock, the pairing of Barkley, Catt or Flood with Mathew Tait at outside centre could leave the midfield exposed.
So another option could be to name Barkley/Catt/Flood at 12 and bring in Leicester’s Dan Hipkiss at 13.
Hipkiss is highly regarded at Welford Road, with players such as Ben Kay urging Ashton to include him in the World Cup squad after a successful season with the Tigers.
Josh Lewsey, who for this game is named on the wing, has played at centre for his club Wasps and as an outside bet, may have to cope with yet another change of position.
So Ashton is sure to have a sleepless night as he weighs up the pros and cons of each combination, with this problem coming just two days before England’s biggest game in four years. Who would be a coach, eh?
Mark Orlovac is a BBC Sport journalist based in London. He will be based in Paris for the knockout stages of the Rugby World Cup.