Lalakai Foketi
Wallabies centre Lalakai Foketi gets treatment for a neck injury at NSW Waratahs training in Sydney. Image by Darren Walton/AAP PHOTOS
  • rugby union

Waratahs star Foketi in hospital with neck injury

Darren Walton February 22, 2024

Wallabies centre Lalakai Foketi has undergone scans after being taken to hospital in an ambulance with a neck injury sustained at NSW Waratahs training.

Foketi was treated for more than half an hour by medics after an apparently innocuous incident during a session on Thursday at the Waratahs’ Daceyville base in Sydney.

Coach Darren Coleman initially reported the 29-year-old had movement in his fingers before the club released a statement.

“Foketi was taken to the Prince of Wales Hospital in Randwick by ambulance following the incident which occurred during the field session this morning,” the club said.

“The club is awaiting the results from the scans and Foketi’s family are with him in hospital. Club representatives have been on hand to provide support throughout the day.

“The Waratahs would like to thank the amazing staff at the Prince of Wales Hospital and will provide further updates on Foketi as they come to hand.”

The injury comes just two days before the Tahs’ season-opening Super Rugby clash against the Queensland Reds at Suncorp Stadium.

Foketi, a member of Australia’s World Cup squad last year and the scorer of the Wallabies’ try of the season in 2022, had been named to start at inside centre in a star-studded midfield with Izaia Perese.

Jorgenson (right)
 Max Jorgensen (right) could come into the reckoning if Lalakai Foketi is ruled out. Image by Joel Carrett/AAP PHOTOS 

Coleman will almost certainly need to find a replacement and may consider promoting teenage sensation Max Jorgensen from the bench into the starting XV.

Jorgensen only made his comeback from a fractured fibula in a trial last Saturday against a combined Manly and Warringah outfit.

The 19-year-old survived 40 minutes unscathed after being forced home early from the World Cup in France without featuring in any of Australia’s games.

Should Coleman go that way, Jorgensen would likely start at fullback and Joey Walton be shifted to the centres.

Otherwise Mosese Tupulotu, the brother of Scotland midfielder Sione, may come into the centres to team with Perese, allowing Jorgensen to be eased back into the fold as the Waratahs had hoped.

The Reds beat the Waratahs handsomely in Roma two weeks ago, before Coleman’s side also lost comprehensively to the Melbourne Rebels in a second trial.

But prop Angus Bell insists there’s no need for panic.

“We came into that week not wanting to show very much. You don’t want to show your hand before you play them and certain things that we think will work against the Reds in a trial,” Bell said on Thursday.

“It’s not down to that. We weren’t good enough in some aspects and gave them too much time.

“(But) we’ve gone the past two years winning all our trials and we’ve come into the season and got opposite results. Trial form doesn’t mean much, it’s about us getting back into our footy.

“We weren’t happy with the results, but we’re excited that we get to prove everyone else wrong this weekend when we beat the Reds at Suncorp.”