INJURED Joeli Lutumailagi should be fit in time for the Sevens Rugby World Cup in Moscow, Russia in June next year, says Fiji Rugby Union coaching director Franck Boivert.
Lutumailagi sustained neck injury — a sprain over the top of C6 on C7, with no damage to spinal cord — resulting from a high tackle while playing for the French club Narbonne in the Rugby Pro D2 friendly against BÃ©ziers over the weekend.
Boivert, who is originally from France, said the French Top 14 neurosurgeon Doctor Pierre Bernard had advised him it would take a maximum of nine months for Lutumailagi to fully recover.
This means the former Nadroga centre will miss the entire 2012/13 French rugby season, which ends in May next year.
Boivert said France had advanced rehabilitation centres to deal with such injuries.
"I have been told by the Top 14 rugby doctor that he should be fit to play again by next year. It will take a maximum of nine months to fully recover from the injury and given the technology in France, it should be faster," he said.
"They got rehabilitation centres with all sorts of fast recovery processes like massages and hot jacuzzi and other facilities to aid with the fast recovery.
"All top soccer and rugby players go to these rehab centres to recover from any sorts of injuries."
Lutumailagi, 27, was a vital player in the Digicel Fiji 7s 2011/12 International Rugby Board (IRB) Sevens World Series.
National assistant coach Etuate Waqa said Lutumailagi was one of the senior players eyed by FRU for the 7s RWC.
"But we were not sure about his availability. Metuisela (Talebula) said he signed his contract with a clause allowing him to play in the 7s RWC but we don't know about others," Waqa said.
"But while him and others were part of our plan, we will also be looking at the recovery time they will have after their season in France ends. "We need to take the best and the fittest players to the 7s RWC."
Meanwhile, Boivert said despite Lutumailagi's injury, he would be fully paid as per accordance to his contract and the club would be footing his medical bills as well. "In France, the labour law is very strict so he will be getting 100 per cent despite being out whole season."
Nadroga Rugby Union secretary Tiko Matawalu said Lutumailagi's family had taken the news of his injury in a positive way and were praying for a swift recovery.
"He's well now and injury is not as serious as Mitieli (Nacagilevu)," Matawalu said.
"In Joeli's case, there was proper handling done from the ground to the hospital by professional medical team, which prevented the injury from getting more serious."
Matawalu also confirmed former 7s star Nacagilevu was back on the road, doing light running to keep him fit and in contention for 7s RWC.