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Rugby Union: Mystery injury hits Wales skipper Charvis; EXCLUSIVE: Club and country concern.

Byline: ANDY HOWELL Rugby Correspondent

WALES captain Colin Charvis could be forced to sit out the autumn internationals with a knee problem that is causing major concern at his club, Swansea.

The British Lions back-row forward has been unable to train for nearly a month after contracting an infection in a leg. Charvis has been forced to go through the pain barrier to play for the All Whites, and the condition will be re-assessed in a fortnight's time.

Swansea coach John Connolly revealed the 29-year-old, who skippered Wales during their two summer Tests in South Africa and is a strong contender to keep the job for November's opening international against Romania at Wrexham, had consulted a rheumatologist.

The visit took place amid fears Charvis could have a condition similar to the viral arthritis which stalled and then effectively ended the Test career of former Wales flanker Andrew Gibbs. ``Colin has not been able to train for three to four weeks. He got an infection in a knee. What has caused it we are not sure,'' said Connolly.

Charvis has managed to play in games, but the joint has been inflammed after each outing with the knee having to be drained to reduce swelling.

``Every time he plays he takes four steps backwards. The knee balloons up,'' said Connolly.

``This week it has been three steps back so we hope it is improving. However, if it does not improve in the next two weeks, we are going to have to take stock of the situation and what is best for Colin.''

Connolly admits losing Charvis would be a major blow for Swansea and Wales.

``He is vital for us and for Wales across the board. His physical condi-tion is also a worry because his training has been restricted.''

Wales coach Steve Hansen will be alarmed at the news. He brought Charvis back into the international fold after predecessor Graham Henry dropped him from the squad for last February's Six Nations championship opener against Ireland after the Englishborn but Welsh-qualified flanker choose to go on holiday rather than attend a Wales training camp.

Hansen then made him captain in an effort to get the best out of the 46-times capped powerhouse for Wales's final match of last season's Six Nations, the defeat against Scotland in Cardiff.

Charvis took over from fellow Lion Scott Quinnell, who was himself battling a persistent knee problem, and held the leadership reins during the tour of South Africa, which unluckily ended in two defeats against the Springboks.

Hansen recently revealed he was unsure who would skipper Wales this autumn but Charvis's fragile knee condition could open the way for Quinnell to regain the job.

Quinnell enters hospital following the Scarlets' Celtic League battle with Neath tonight for a nose-job. The bulldozing No 8 has suffered from nose bleeds during and after matches since injuring it while shining for the Lions in Australia last year.

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FEARS: Problem for Colin Charvis; Picture: Steve Pope/sportingwales.com; ON THE DEFENSIVE: Bridgend's Gareth Thomas hangs on to John Bryant of Pontypridd during last night's action at The Brewery Field
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Title Annotation:Sport
Publication:Western Mail (Cardiff, Wales)
Geographic Code:4EUUW
Date:Sep 14, 2002
Words:520
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