'Sore' Barnes ruled out

2012-02-28 08:04

Sydney - The Waratahs have been dealt a fresh injury blow with Wallabies star Berrick Barnes ruled out of Friday’s Super Rugby clash with the Melbourne Rebels.

Utility back Barnes missed last Saturday’s loss to the Queensland Reds with a groin injury but was expected to play against the Rebels in Melbourne.

However he pulled up sore today after a fitness test on Monday and said he would miss the game but was confident of playing the next week against the Highlanders in Dunedin.

Barnes did not train with the team at Moore Park on Monday, instead being involved in a series of sprints and exercises to prove whether he had overcome his injury.

Barnes's absence was devastating for the Waratahs, as his big-time experience would have been crucial in the final minutes, especially with several NSW brain explosions near the end enabling the Reds to win the match on the bell through a 60 metre Dom Shipperley try.

Had Barnes been fit, he would have been captain against the Reds and played at inside-centre, outside Daniel Halangahu, who instead skippered the side.

Barnes's absence gives a reprieve to Tom Carter, who did not help himself in the final seconds of the Reds' loss when he got distracted when tackling Digby Ioane, unnecessarily roughening up the Test wing. Carter then made the wrong call in directing his halfback Brendan McKibbin to kick downfield.

There is still great uncertainty over when their season captain Rocky Elsom and Test winger Drew Mitchell will again be available.

While Elsom has been helping out at training, he appears some weeks off from running with the team because of his hamstring injury.

Asked on Monday when he was likely to return, Elsom replied: ''It is difficult for me to say at the moment. You just have good days and bad days.''

There is also deep concern that Mitchell's lingering ankle complaint could see him miss not just half of the Super Rugby tournament, but all of it, which would be dire for the Waratahs, who have already lost their other Test winger Lachie Turner through injury this season.

The Rebels will also be well short of their best line-up, with captain Stirling Mortlock already ruled out with a calf injury, while fullback Kurtley Beale is not expected to play because of his hamstring complaint.

Before Waratahs training yesterday, team management stressed to the players they had to try to forget their final-minute blunders against the Reds, and instead concentrate on overcoming the Rebels.

Foley said that at their traditional on Monday forum the team ''focused on the positives from the Reds game''.

''We made sure people weren't looking to blame themselves. And there were lessons to learn from that game which was much broader than just the last minute,'' Foley said.

''There were things we did throughout the game which were quite good, and some things which allowed the pressure to mount on us. We also talked about coping with the emotion of those sort of losses.

''I was pleased with the overall performance, particularly some of the things we had been practising on during the pre-season, and which we haven't been good at in the past. I thought against the championship side there were some very good signs, including how we coped with the pressure.''

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