Injured New Zealand vice-captain Tim Brown's hopes of playing at the FIFA World Cup™ finals have been boosted after the surgeon who operated on his injured shoulder described the procedure as a success.
The 29-year-old suffered a fractured right shoulder during the All White's 2-1 friendly defeat to Australia in Melbourne on Monday. Brown did not join the rest of the squad as they embarked on a 40-hour trip to their training base in Austria, instead flying to Auckland to undergo surgery and try to keep his FIFA World Cup dream alive.
Brown was rated a "50-50" chance before the operation and surgeon Stu Walsh offered a positive prognosis, albeit without ensuring his fitness for South Africa, after revealing yesterday's operation had gone well. "It is still too early to comment on his chances of being available for the World Cup at this stage," Walsh said.
"That will depend on how quickly he heals and how well he progresses through rehabilitation. The usual recovery time for this type of injury is three to six weeks, depending on the individual, and it can occasionally be much longer. However, Tim is a strong and fit athlete, who is very motivated and looks after himself well, which will benefit his recovery. We are therefore optimistic about the prognosis."
The rest of the New Zealand arrived at their Austrian training base in St Lambrecht yesterday after their long-haul travel. The All Whites, who will play at the World Cup finals for just the second time, went straight into a training session ahead of their game against world number 15 Serbia on Saturday.
Coach Ricki Herbert said: "Psychologically we're really in that World Cup mode now. We've got teams like England and Japan preparing [in Austria] so there's a real sense that we're back on the world stage again."
Herbert hinted that he would look to test his full squad in the upcoming matches after selecting a near full-strength line-up in their 2-1 friendly defeat to Australia on Monday. The coach will be forced to make at least two changes with Brown out, while Chris Killen has returned to Britain to be married.
"We'll make some changes personnel-wise but we won't change tack on what we've thought is the right process to follow," Herbert added. "There'll be some new players coming in but that will be around their performances rather than anything else."
St Lambrecht is more than 1000m above sea level as the side looks to adapt to the altitude away from the intense build-up that marked their departure from New Zealand. "It's been euphoria, even in Australia it was the same," Herbert said.
"It's good to be here. We're on the grass doing everything that we need to do. We go into this game firmly with players' performances at the forefront. We'll try a couple of different combinations, it may or may not work."