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Romano touch and go to make play-off cut

Published: 7:01AM Wednesday July 17, 2013 Source: Fairfax

Two years ago Luke Romano wondered if chicken pox would force him to miss the Super Rugby final against the Reds.

Now, ahead of the Crusaders match against the Queenslanders at AMI Stadium on Saturday night, the All Blacks lock is trying to overcome a dodgy ankle.

Romano, who suffered a high ankle sprain against the Chiefs on July 5, missed last weekend's final regular-season match against the Hurricanes and is no certainty to start the qualifying final against the Reds.

While the All Blacks lock began running in a straight line as early as last Saturday he is locked in a race against time to be fully fit.

At least this is a conventional rugby injury.

Before the Crusaders met the Reds in the 2011 final in Brisbane it was discovered Romano had chicken pox after the semi-final win over the Stormers in Cape Town and his departure from South Africa was delayed until he was given a medical certificate allowing him to fly.

Despite reservations he would have to skip the final, he took the field in the second half and watched the hyped-up Reds celebrate their 18-13 victory at Suncorp Stadium.

"I came off for the last 15 to 20 minutes. That was a very disappointing occasion. I still remember that well. We were right in the game and just a couple of wee defensive lapses allowed Will Genia to score," Romano said.

"That was probably the losing of the game right there. But there is plenty of motivation without having to look back that far. If you lose (on Saturday night) you are out."

Romano, 27, injured his ankle when Chiefs halfback and All Blacks team-mate Tawera Kerr-Barlow smacked into him from the side.

"It certainly hurt but I thought 'it will be right, it is just a little tweak' and I jumped up and the pain got worse and worse."

Team physio John Roche taped-up the ankle and Romano played through to halftime. He knew his night's work was done when he got into the changing sheds and removed his boot.

"It was blown up like a balloon and they made the decision there to pull me."

Scans didn't reveal any fractures and Romano knew from experience, he has suffered more painful sprains in the past, this injury was not going to end his Super Rugby campaign too soon.

Romano was in a soft-cast for a week to reduce the swelling and was able to complete a 50m run in a straight line last weekend.

"But obviously the big test will be changing direction. That will be the test that determines whether I am right this week."