NATHAN CHARLES, WHO suffers from cystic fibrosis, is set to make his Australia debut off the bench in Saturday’s Test match against France [KO 11.00am Irish time].
The Western Force hooker has been named among the replacements by head coach Ewen McKenzie, who says Charles has “defied science and logic” to progress his career to this point.
25-year-old Charles was diagnosed with the genetic condition – which can lead to life-threatening lung infections and digestive problems – at the age of three months. However, the Sydney native has gone on to enjoy a career that has already seen him play five seasons of Super Rugby, as well as having a stint with Gloucester in England.
It is believed that Charles is the only professional athlete in the world who is involved in a contact sport to have cystic fibrosis.
“If you look at the symptoms and classic outcomes of cystic fibrosis it’s not a great scenario from a sporting point of view, but he seems to have defied science and defied logic,” McKenzie told The Sydney Morning Herald after selecting Charles.
“One of the issues for instance might be putting on weight but he seems to have no problem, he looks like a hooker and he’s got the right proportions and he carries and presents himself well.
“I’m glad it’s out in the open and I think it’s one that we should acknowledge. The best we could do to acknowledge it from a team point of view is to give him an opportunity on the field.”
Charles has made 13 impressive starts for the Force this season and is in the best form of his career. Cystic fibrosis carries with it a life expectancy of 37 years, but the 25-year-old is clearly not focusing on that possibility.
Australia (v France): Israel Folau; Adam Ashley-Cooper, Tevita Kuridrani, Matt Toomua, Nick Cummins; Bernard Foley, Nic White; James Slipper, Tatafu Polota-Nau, Sekope Kepu; Rob Simmons, James Horwill; Scott Fardy, Michael Hooper (capt.), Ben McCalman.
Replacements: Nathan Charles, Pek Cowan, Laurie Weeks, Luke Jones, Scott Higginbotham, Nick Phipps, Kurtley Beale, Pat McCabe.