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Strictly judge Craig Revel Horwood jokes former contestant is ‘ready to replace’ AJ

Strictly Come Dancing judge Craig Revel Horwood quipped that Good Morning Britain star and former contestant Charlotte Hawkins was ‘ready to replace’ finalist AJ Odudu following her ankle injury.

During an appearance on the ITV show the day before AJ was forced to pull out of the show, Craig discussed how the finalist had been unable to rehearse or put weight on her feet.

As hosts Charlotte and Ben Shephard welcomed Craig to Thursday's show, Craig, 56, said: “Charlotte you look fantastic darling, ready to step in for AJ any minute.”

However, Charlotte, who competed on Strictly alongside Brendan Cole in 2017, quickly brushed off Craig’s comments.

Elsewhere in his chat, Craig said that he still thought AJ was in with a shot of being crowned champion of the series.

The Masked Dancer star explained: “The point about the judging on the final is we don’t actually have any power at all, it’s up to the audience alone to decide.

“Yes, our scores are representative but they’re not taken into account.”

A day later AJ was forced to withdraw from the competition – just 24 hours before she was supposed to perform three routines.

Following a meeting with medics, AJ and her pro partner Kai Widdrington released a statement where they spoke of their heartbreak that they were having to leave the competition under such circumstances.

Former Big Brother's Bit on the Side host AJ 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 is something I'll treasure forever."

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She added: "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."

The star then gave a special shout out to her fellow finalists, wishing them luck for the big night.

"Good luck to my partners in dance, John & Johannes and Rose and Giovanni. I will be cheering you on (on one leg!)"

AJ's partner Kai added, “I’ve been absolutely honoured to get to dance with the incredible AJ Odudu for the last few months and although neither of us wanted our journey to end this way, AJ’s health and safety are by far the most important things."

"I want to thank AJ for being the absolute best partner I could ever have asked for in my first year on the show and I will always treasure the memories of dancing in the Strictly ballroom with her."

The professional dancer added: "I know we will be friends for life and I will be there for her through her recovery in whatever way I can."

"I want to wish good luck to John and Johannes and Rose and Giovanni for the final. And finally the biggest thank you to everyone who voted for us throughout the series, your support has been unforgettable."

For more Strictly finalists stories, sign up to our daily OK! newsletter. The Strictly Come Dancing final will air on Saturday 18 December on BBC One

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