Ivorian wing in intensive care

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THE IVORY COAST wing Max Brito was airlifted from the pitch with a serious spinal injury after only two minutes of his country's 29-11 World Cup defeat by Tonga in Rustenberg yesterday.

The 24-year-old electrician, who lives in Paris, had been trapped at the bottom of a maul and was unable to move his legs or his left arm when he arrived by helicopter at Unitas Hospital in Verwoerdburg, near Pretoria, 60 miles away.

The game was held up for 10 minutes while Brito was secured to a stretcher with special braces. Doctors at the hospital said he was in intensive care though his neck had not been broken. He had suffered a severe blow between his fourth and fifth vertebrae, and is likely to have an operation in about three days' time.

The Africans, beaten 89-0 and 54-18 in their previous pool D matches, observed a minute's silence before the kick-off following the death of the father of their captain, Athanese Dali.

Both sides had already been eliminated from the tournament, but the game was a triumph for the Tongan full-back Sateki Tu' ipulotu, who scored 14 points.