Townsend boost for Scotland's World Cup hopes

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Scotland were given some good news yesterday. Gregor Townsend, their experienced fly-half who has won 77 caps, underwent keyhole surgery on a knee last week and should now be fit for the World Cup.

Townsend, who has begun rehabilitation with the Scotland physiotherapist, Stuart Barton, was said to be doing "exceptionally well" by the team doctor, James Robson.

The Scotland team manager, Dougie Morgan, said: "We are pleased with Gregor's progress and we are confident that there's no threat to his participation in the World Cup."

The news is not so good for Italy. Their wing Denis Dallan pulled out of a training game at the weekend because of an ankle injury which has kept him on the sidelines throughout much of the Azzurri's World Cup build-up. Italy are awaiting anxiously for some sign of improvement.

Argentina have called up the Biarritz centre Martin Gaitan as a replacement for the captain, Lisandro Arbizu, who was ruled out of the World Cup after rupturing knee ligaments at the weekend. Gaitan won the first of his four caps for the Pumas in 1998.

Gloucester are looking on the bright side after learning that they will have to do without their new fly-half Duncan McRae until the middle of next month. The New South Wales Waratahs player was sent off while playing for the Sydney club Randwick at the weekend.

The fiery fly-half, signed by the Cherry and Whites on a two-year contract as a replacement for Ludovic Mercier, was sent to the sin-bin and, while leaving the pitch, was seen to gesture towards the touch judge George Ayoub. The referee, Stuart Dickinson, was told by Ayoub that McRae called him "a f****** cheat" and the yellow card was exchanged for a red one.

McRae was subsequently suspended until 15 October, which means that the earliest he can turn out for Gloucester will be against Harlequins on 18 October.

Nigel Melville, Gloucester's director of rugby, wrote on the club's website: "Duncan is now free to arrive in the UK earlier than we had planned and it will offer him time to settle into the area and form a good working relationship with the players."

When he does arrive, McRae will eventually run up against his Randwick team-mate Patrick Phibbs. Saracens have signed the 24-year-old utility half-back as World Cup cover for England's Kyran Bracken and Morgan Williams of Canada. Phibbs is due to arrive tomorrow.

Then, later this month, Saracens take delivery of yet another Australian, this time the ACT Brumbies' three-quarter Mark Bartholomeusz, who has made 50 Super 12 appearances.