Injury fells wing Johnson

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The Independent Online

Gloucester's injury crisis has hit another low with the news that speedy winger Brian Johnson has been grounded for good. Medical tests received by the club yesterday confirmed that the 28-year-old will never play again because of a serious back injury.

Gloucester's injury crisis has hit another low with the news that speedy winger Brian Johnson has been grounded for good. Medical tests received by the club yesterday confirmed that the 28-year-old will never play again because of a serious back injury.

Johnson, who has been with the club for three years, sustained the injury last season. Gloucester have released him from his contract and the player is to continue receiving physiotherapy, and other assistance in regaining his fitness for everyday life, from the club.

The England A winger was given special dispensation by the Army, where he is a captain, to join Gloucester from Newbury as a full-time professional in December 1997. He hopes to continue his physiotherapy work at the Gloucester club. He said: "The injury has not really progressed, but as soon as the specialist told me I could end up in a wheelchair if I carried on playing then I knew that would be it."

Philippe Saint-André, the Gloucester coach said: "He has been a fine player and ambassador for Gloucester Rugby Club and I am extremely sorry to lose him. It is extremely hard for any player to end his rugby days through injury, particularly when, as in Brian's case, it is premature.

"We have experienced an unprecedented level of injuries this season at the club, but replacing a player of Brian's ability will not be easy."

Saint-André has managed to unearth one possible new player as cover at half-back. Rugby league's Bobbie Goulding is on trial at Kingsholm and if he comes through a Second XV match against Bristol United tonight then he could well be in the squad for the Zurich Premiership derby at home against the Bristol first team on Saturday.

Goulding, 28, has been released by Wakefield Trinity Wildcats and although Salford are showing an interest in the Great Britain international, the player has been keen to turn to the 15-man code.

The former Bristol and England flanker Mike Rafter has joined the coaching panel to help prepare Gloucestershire for this season's assault on the Tetley's Bitter County Championship.

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