Rugby Union

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Bad news for O'Connor, Gerrard to leave

STIRLING Mortlock had been willing to risk further damage to his troublesome calf and miss the Melbourne Rebels' final two games of the season so that he could play his final game in Australia last night at AAMI Park.

The Rebels skipper had been in serious doubt for last night's game and admitted that had it been a less significant occasion, he would most likely not have played.

But as things turned out, Mortlock, who will retire after the end of this season, played the first half of the Rebels's clash against Queensland, and was last night confident that he would tomorrow join his teammates travelling to South Africa for the team's final two games of the season against the Lions and Stormers.

"It actually went a lot better than I anticipated, so it looks like I'm going to South Africa which is really positive," Mortlock said.

"We ummed and aahed about everything and at the end of the day I said we were going to roll the dice and that's exactly what we did, and thankfully everything seemed to go as well as it could, so (it's a) very good result from my perspective.

"Hilly [coach Damien Hill] and the medical staff backed my call and if I didn't have confidence I could [play] I was definitely going to pull the pin."


Hill said: "My instructions to the medical staff was that if he could play he should play. I think this team performs better when Stirling's on the field leading them".

But the news was less positive for James O'Connor who, in his first game since lacerating his liver in round nine,  aggravated a hamstring injury.

Hill said O'Connor would have scans today but was unlikely to travel to South Africa, with his place being taken by Lloyd Johansson.

"I'm not sure of the extent of James' injury but it doesn't look good," Hill said. "We'll have to wait for the scan but on my layman's observation he won't be touring but we'll wait and see."

However, he said, while Kurtley Beale, who entered the game with sore ribs suffered in the  Wallabies' Test against Wales last weekend, finished "battered and bruised, he would be fit to play next week".

Queensland coach Ewen McKenzie said there was no concern over Quade Cooper, who came off the field after half-time and was seen icing his leg. He said Cooper, who has recently returned from a long-term knee injury, had taken a bump to his lower leg and had been replaced as a precaution.

McKenzie said, despite a 30-minute period after half-time when the Rebels scored two tries, he was satisfied with the Reds' performance which takes them to 49 points, level on the Australian conference table with the Brumbies, who play Western Force tonight, but with a better points difference.

"There was just a patch there where we gave them some counter-attack and Beale at 10 [where he moved after O'Connor left the field] made a big difference to them. He made things happen for them as he does," McKenzie said.

"There was a period of the game when we were just holding on but we actually defended pretty well. There was some pretty good and courageous last-ditch defence, but ideally we wouldn't have put ourselves in that position."

Meanwhile, Mark Gerrard, one of the Rebels most consistent performers during the club's first two years, revealed that he would return to Japanese rugby, where he played before joining the Rebels, at the end of the season.