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Last Updated: Wednesday, 29 October, 2003, 13:32 GMT
Charron escapes serious injury
Canadian captain Al Charron is stretchered off the field
Canada's Al Charron was stretchered off after being tackled by Pierre Hola
Canadian captain Al Charron has been cleared of serious injury after a sickening clash in his team's 24-7 World Cup win over Tonga.

Charron, playing his 76th and final international before retiring, was stretchered from the field after being knocked out cold by a tackle from Tongan fly-half Pierre Hola.

He was taken to Wollongong hospital for scans and cleared of any serious damage, though he needed stitches in a deep cut in his mouth.

"They got a plastic surgeon in to stitch up the inside of his mouth," a team spokesman said.

"It was a bit of a mess but he's all right and will be released so he can join his team-mates."

The Canadians complained to Irish referee Alain Rolland that the tackle was dangerous, but the official disagreed and allowed play to continue once Charron had been taken away.

We're going to celebrate without him until he comes back
Canada coach Dave Clark
Canada coach Dave Clark said later he considered the tackle to be accidental.

"Unfortunately, he was badly hit in the head. It was an unfortunate incident," Clark said.

"But we're going to celebrate without him until he comes back. He's got a badly cut lip and he might not be able to have a drink."

Charron is one of Canada's greatest players and made a courageous comeback from a crippling knee injury just to make the World Cup.

"It was a Herculean effort for Al Charron to make it back. He's the heartbeat of the team and is going to be hard to replace," Clark said.

"But I spoke to him after the game and he was in good spirits and just happy the boys had won."

The match was in the balance with Canada clinging to a 14-7 lead when Charron was stretchered off but Mark Lawson, who took over the captaincy, said the players were determined not to lose the game.

"When Al went down the guys were all a bit freaked out," Lawson said.

We played running rugby which is our style of rugby
Tongan captain Inoke Afeaki
"But just seeing him being carted off the field, we weren't going to lose the game."

Tongan captain Inoke Afeaki, who scored his team's only try, said he was happy with his side's performance.

"I can't complain about the way the boys performed. We played really, really well," said Afeaki.

"We played running rugby, which is our style of rugby, so we're pretty happy with that.

"It's just that we missed the finesse, and maybe the finesse is something that comes with being well rested before a game.

"If we had been well rested, passes would have stuck and you would have seen more tries.

"We knew the schedule we had and we tried our best, but our best wasn't good enough this time around."





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