Balding out for eight weeks with fractured cheekbone

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The Independent Online

He will miss at least eight weeks of competitive rugby, including the opening rounds of the European Challenge Cup and the new Anglo-Welsh Powergen Cup, and is expected to undergo surgery tomorrow.

"I believe these things happen for a reason," said Balding, who was hurt in a collision with the Worcester back-row forward Drew Hickey in the sixth minute of the game at Sixways. The former Leicester No 8 did not elaborate on this fatalistic notion, but the Gloucester hierarchy are not looking for reasons beyond what they consider to have been an illegal challenge. Dean Ryan, the head coach, has pressed the Rugby Football Union's citing team to take a close look at the incident.

Balding insisted he "did not want to dwell on what happened", adding: "I'll stay positive, stay involved and aim to come back fitter and stronger. We have said all along this is a squad game and I would like to think anyone in my position would want to do the same. We play in a contact sport and injuries happen, so I have to remain upbeat about the future. There is nothing I can do now."

The France coach, Bernard Laporte, has decided against including his Premiership-based players - notably the Sale hooker Sébastien Bruno and his club colleague Sébastien Chabal, the Saracens full-back Thomas Castaignède and the celebrated flanker Oliver Magne - in a 34-man squad undergoing conditioning tests at the team's training base outside Paris over the next week.

However, he has also omitted some of his senior home-based players, including the captain, Fabien Pelous, and such luminaries as Frédéric Michalak and Jean-Baptiste Elissalde, in favour of a number of uncapped youngsters, including the 18-year-old Toulouse full-back Maxime Médard and the 20-year-old Clermont Auvergne lock Loic Jacquet.