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The Springbok Women have suffered a big blow just over a week out from the start of WRWC 2014 with lock Nomathamsanqa Faleni and centres Marithy Pienaar and Ziyanda Tywaleni being ruled out of the tournament due to injury.
Faleni suffered a knee injury at training last week, while Pienaar’s knee and Tywaleni’s hamstring injuries flared up following their recent return to training following injury lay-offs.
The players have all returned home to recover and have been replaced by utility forward Andrea Mentoor, fly half Zandile Nojoko and utility back Sinazo Nobele respectively.
The Women’s Rugby World Cup will be hosted in Marcoussis, outside of Paris, from 1-17 August, with South Africa facing Australia, hosts France and Wales in the pool stages of the competition.
Mentoor and Nojoko were members of the Springbok Women’s squad that travelled to London and France for the team’s World Cup warm-up tour.
Springbok Women’s coach Lawrence Sephaka admitted that the injuries were a big blow to the team, but he had faith in their replacements to fill their boots with distinction.
"It is always sad to lose players to injury, especially so close to the World Cup,” said Sephaka. “Each one of them are top players in their respective positions, while Thami (Faleni) and Ziyanda also boast vast experience as members of the 2010 World Cup squad. But we have fine replacements in Andrea, Zandile and Sinazo.
"Zandile, in particular, is one of a select few who have been in the system since our first Rugby World Cup campaign in 2006, so she knows what to expect in France. This may be Andrea and Sinazo’s first World Cup, but they are quality players and good decision-makers, so we have full faith that they will make their presence felt in the competition.”
South Africa begin their WRWC 2014 campaign on 1 August against an Australia side boasting three stars of the Women's Sevens circuit.
Sevens captain Sharni Williams, Shannon Parry and Cobie Jane Morgan have been included as the Wallaroos look to improve on their third place finish at the last tournament four years ago.
Veteran fly half Tui Ormsby will represent Australia at her fourth Women’s Rugby World Cup, becoming the first Australian woman to do so, while 12 players will be going to their first.
Wales centre Adi Taviner will end two years in the international wilderness in France after being recalled by head coach Rhys Edwards.
Taviner was the standout performer in Neath's successful Super Cup run, and Rafique Taylor also returns to the squad, having missed out on the Six Nations but impressing on the wing for Wales Sevens.
"Adi's inclusion is not a gamble at all as she has been on our radar for some time even though she hasn't been playing international rugby," Edwards said. "She has been playing really well and is in a good place plus she covers centre and the back three.
"Ultimately we have taken the last two years into account when picking the squad – from training, off the pitch and on the pitch and it is a side I believe has plenty of potential to do well in France."