Gross forced out of World Cup
September 20, 2007

Veteran Eagle lock Luke Gross has resigned himself to the fact that he will not be able to see out the 2007 Rugby World Cup in France after a burst disc in his back has vanished all hopes of playing in what would be his third World Cup.

Looking forward to his eighth Rugby World Cup match, Gross had an ironic turn of events when he was injured in a scrum just days before he was slated to start at lock for the US side that faced England on September 8.

"I knew it was just a matter of time before something like this would happen," Gross said somberly at his last practice with the US squad. "It's obviously very frustrating to have made it this far, put in all the work to get here, and not be able to play. But, then again, I have to look on the bright side and appreciate the fact that I have made two prior squads and at may age it was an honor to have made it this far."

After his injury, which happened nearly two weeks ago, Gross had to finally say goodbye to teammates and coaches after an MRI proved what team doctors had suspected, that there was no way he could come back for the last two matches held September 26 against Samoa and September 30 versus South Africa.

"I need to get back and have surgery as soon as possible," Gross added. "They need to clean up portions of that disc so that I can hopefully come back and finish out my professional career with Doncaster. But following that, I'm fairly sure that this is the end of my playing career."

Gross is the most capped US player in history recording 62 caps in over 11 seasons with the Eagles. He is also a skilled leader and coach and said there is always the possibility of coming back in some shape or form to the USA Rugby organization.

"I'm open to anything," he said. "With rugby where it is in the US right now, there is no telling what is possible. It would be really exciting to be a part of USA Rugby in the near future and depending on the opportunities, I would definitely consider moving back to the States."

In the meantime, the US has used Gross' medical emergency to bring in rookie lock John Van Der Giessen (Filer, Idaho) as his replacement for the last 10 days and two matches that the US still has remaining at the 2007 RWC.

"We brought in John not only as an option at lock, but also because we can see that he has a bright future with USA Rugby and this experience is immeasurable. He was also right on the edge of making the squad in the first place and he has definitely earned his way to France, if it is only for the last couple games," head coach Peter Thorburn said.

Van Der Giessen leaves the US Thursday evening and will arrive in Lyon on Friday morning, meeting up with Eagles in time to make the a.m. pool session.

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