The Wallabies’ worst fears have been realized, with Samu Kerevi expected to miss the rest of the year due to a knee injury.
It’s understood Kerevi, 28, suffered an ACL injury during Australia’s narrow 7-5 victory over Kenya in their Commonwealth Games pool match over the weekend.
Kerevi took no further part in Australia’s campaign, where John Manenti’s side lost in the semi-finals to South Africa.
Rugby Australia had been cagey about details regarding Kerevi, eager not to let the cat out of the bag.
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Kerevi told reporters he felt “alright” and added “I’m always confident [to be fit to play] but I’ll get a doc on it and see. It was just a big bang but then once it settled down it was fine.”
But the Suntory center is expected to miss the remainder of the year, with sources confirming the 41-Test center is expected to spend at least six months on the sidelines.
Kerevi is said to be devastated, believing he has let his teammates down.
The Wallabies were happy for Kerevi to take part of Australia’s sevens campaign after the former Queensland Reds captain made a promise to his teammates from the Tokyo Olympics that he would try and help them win gold in Birmingham.
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“It was a tough decision in the end but I gave my word to these boys, if I was available to be back I’d be back here,” Kerevi told news corp in the lead-up to the Games.
“I’m blessed enough to be in this position and get selected for these Games. I’m pretty ecstatic about that.
“It’s pretty special to be part of this group and to represent Australia. It’s something I’ll always, always remember.
“But more than just participating, we want to be here and do well and win a medal – win a gold medal. That’s our goal and the boys are working hard towards that.”
After featuring in the No.12 jersey in all three Tests against England in July, Kerevi was always set to miss the opening two matches of The Rugby Championship against Michael Cheika’s Argentina because of his Commonwealth Games commitments.
The world class center was to link back with the squad ahead of the home Tests against the Springboks later this month, but that won’t be the case now.
There was an inherent risk about returning to the sevens program, particularly with the added miles in the legs required to succeed in the abbreviated game, but Wallabies coach Dave Rennie would have been sweating on his fitness, such is his importance to the team.
Speaking at the Wallabies’ squad announcement last month, Rennie said Kerevi had his blessing to play at the tournament and added that it would have only changed were they stretched to the limit in the centres.
“Obviously Samu going away to the sevens, to the Commonwealth Games, we thought that was really important,” Rennie said.
“The initial talks we had a few months ago was if we got injuries maybe we wouldn’t let him go, but it’s important for our country to send away a strong side that’s got a chance of winning a medal – and the sevens boys have been going well of late and Samu will only add to that, so we’re committed to that.
“With Izzy Perese out injured, he’s (Irae Simone) coming in just to fill a role in the Argentinian tour and we’ll get Samu back after that.”
Kerevi’s long-term injury will put extra pressure on Hunter Paisami to perform, with the Reds center likely to wear the No.12 jersey against Los Pumas in Mendoza on Sunday (AEST).
Quade Cooper, meanwhile, is firming for a recall to the starting side, having missed the 2-1 series loss to England after suffering a calf injury during warm-up ahead of the opening Test.
Kerevi’s absence will allow Rennie to see how Cooper operates without his battering ram on the outside.
While Cooper won all five matches he featured in last year for the Wallabies, he benefitted from having Kerevi in the midfield who acted as the great foil on his outside.
Now without the muscle of Kerevi to steady the ship if necessary Cheika’s Pumas will undoubtedly target Cooper and try and take away his space.
Argentina are coming off a thrilling 2-1 series victory against Scotland, in what was Cheika’s first Tests as coach after taking over from Mario Ledesma earlier in the year.