Cardiff trio left feeling the blues as flu strikes

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The Independent Online

Cardiff Blues are facing a mounting fitness crisis ahead of their Heineken Cup Pool Three encounter away to Sale Sharks on Friday night.

Dai Young, head coach of the Welsh side, has lost the immediate services of a quartet of players who were injured in the 20-6 home win against Harlequins last Saturday, and yesterday three others were struck down by flu-like symptoms.

The stricken trio, centre Tom Shanklin and back row men Xavier Rush and Sam Warburton, were all forced to miss training yesterday and Young will be praying they make a swift recovery.

The former Wales and British Lions prop has a dwindling band of resources, with locks Paul Tito (neck and head) and Bradley Davies (neck) and utility back Gareth Thomas (groin) all suffering injuries against Quins that look likely to keep them out for at least a fortnight. In addition, prop John Yapp faces four months on the sidelines courtesy of a torn bicep.

Flankers Martyn Williams (shoulder) and Maama Molitika (chest) are still out of contention, while Gethin Jenkins' hopes of returning following a shoulder problem have been hit by the complication of a groin problem. The Wales and British and Irish Lions loosehead prop has yet to be ruled out of the selection picture, though.

Luke McAlister is still in contention for the New Zealand squad for their end-of-year tour but the former Sale Shark is a doubt for the trip after rolling an ankle in a training ground mishap. The inside centre stood on a cone during a skills session with North Harbour and, though X-rays failed to detect any fracture, the 26-year-old will undergo an MRI scan today to assess the extent of the damage.

"We have got our fingers crossed for the guy," North Harbour coach Craig Dowd said. "He has worked very hard and he has had a lot of bad luck with injuries this year." The All Blacks have a Test against Australia in Tokyo on 31 October, before taking on Wales, Italy, England, France and the Barbarians on successive weekends.

Meanwhile, Gloucester hooker Olivier Azam yesterday lost his appeal against a 12-week ban for kicking Steve Borthwick in the eye. The Frenchman hit out at the England captain during his side's defeat to Saracens in the Guinness Premiership on 27 September.

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