Fractured cheekbone puts end to Lomu's French tour

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The Independent Online

Jonah Lomu is returning home for surgery after fracturing a cheek bone against France last weekend.

Jonah Lomu is returning home for surgery after fracturing a cheek bone against France last weekend.

A statement yesterday said Lomu was returning to New Zealand immediately and that he will miss the All Blacks' second Test against France, in Marseille on Saturday, as well as the following Saturday's Test against Italy.

The winger was injured in the All Blacks' 39-26 win over France last Saturday, when his cheek was badly swollen. Initial X-rays, scans and checks on Monday had been encouraging but the player had since been feeling worse.

"Jonah underwent two further scans today, one of which revealed a fracture of the zygomatic arch (part of his cheek bone) under his left eye," the All Blacks' team doctor John Mayhew said. "The injury is stable but the medical advice is that he needs to have surgery within a week to restore the fracture to its normal position."

Lomu will be replaced in the squad by Caleb Ralph from the New Zealand A side although a team spokesman said it was expected that Lomu would be back playing in time for the 2001 Super 12 competition, which starts next February.

Fabien Pelous, the French captain, has called on his team- mates to show greater mental discipline during the second Test. "Right now we are not capable of keeping our concentration for a whole game. Ten minutes or even 10 seconds of carelessness can change the outcome of a match," he said.

The French defeat came a week after an 18-13 loss to the world champions Australia and Pelous said he felt particularly frustrated by the All Blacks' first try, scored by Doug Howlett, after a flowing move by the backs. "Six guys were turning their back on the ball. It's not acceptable," he said.

The French team flew south yesterday, before training near Aix-en-Provence. During their session they paid particular attention to the line-out, an area in which they were outclassed on Saturday.

"What matters is for us to find better positions on the field. We're not trying to hamper individual creativity but we want more collective discipline," Pelous added. "I will be tough all week because I have the feeling I have been talking in the void lately. I should have made my point more clearly."

The winger Thomas Lombard has pulled out of the French squad with a knee injury. Lombard underwent an operation last season and his Stade Français club doctor decided it would be safer for him to withdraw following checks on Monday. The veteran full-back Jean-Luc Sadourny has been called into the team by Bernard Laporte, the French coach.