Strictly's Rhys Stephenson rules out a shock return to the final after AJ Odudu is forced out through injury
STRICTLY'S Rhys Stephenson ruled out filling in for AJ Odudu in the Strictly final hours before she was forced to withdraw through injury.
The CBBC star was rooting for AJ to be well enough to dance in tomorrow's finale, but she has since pulled out due to a torn ankle ligament.
Speaking on Instagram yesterday, Rhys said: "I've had a lot of messages from people asking if I'm going to be in the final now as AJ has hurt herself. Let me tell you now… absolutely not!
"I value my mental health too much. I'm going to go there and enjoy myself and have a good time. That ship has sailed. It would be lovely, but not with two days to go."
Devastated AJ, 33, was pictured hobbling to a car on crutches this morning shortly before announcing her withdrawal.
She said: “I’m deeply upset that I am unable to perform in the final due to a torn ligament in my right ankle. Learning to dance over the last 13 weeks has been an incredible honour and to do it alongside someone as special, patient and devoted as Kai [Widdrington] is something I’ll treasure forever.
“Thank you to the Strictly family for the experience, the medical team for trying to get me back on my feet and mostly, to everyone at home for watching and supporting. You’ve made this experience one to remember.
“Strictly Come Dancing has been a lifelong dream and I’m glad it came true. Good luck to my partners in dance, John [Whaite] and Johannes [Radebe] and Rose [Ayling-Ellis] and Giovanni [Pernice]. I will be cheering you on (on one leg!).”
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Initial reports revealed AJ would need to miss a day of training after undergoing a scan.
Despite sustaining the injury so close to Saturday's final, it was "hoped" that AJ would be fit for this weekend's show – but that has not happened.
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AJ reached the last three after impressing the judges week after week with pro partner Kai Widdrington.
In the semi-final they danced a very sultry rumba to Show Me Heaven by Maria McKee, and fans noted their chemistry was "off the charts".
The pair have refused to confirm or deny if their connection is romantic, but it paid off as they sizzled on the Strictly ballroom floor and made it through to the final.
Two couples now face a head-to-head battle to scoop the Glitterball Trophy.
EastEnders star Rose Ayling-Ellis is the frontrunner tipped to take home the Strictly prize on Saturday night.
Rose is paired up with Giovanni Pernice who branded Rose "the best partner" in a recent interview.
Since appearing on Strictly, the deaf star has continued to wow the judges and now is tipped to scoop the crown.
Chef John Whaite will be dancing alongside pro partner Johannes Radebe in the final.
The TV star shot to fame when he won Bake Off back in 2012.
John and Johannes made Strictly history as the first male same-sex pairing to compete and have done well on the scoreboard each week.
As well as the coveted Glitterball trophy, the Strictly winner scoops a whopping £100,000 to take home with them.
Past Strictly champions have topped up their cash winnings by landing more lucrative TV deals after the show.
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