Leigh Halfpenny ruled out of World Cup
Wales star fullback Leigh Halfpenny has now been officially ruled out of the Rugby World Cup with a cruciate ligament injury.
Although this in truth is great news for Stuart Lancaster and England, it’s disappointing that one the Northern Hemispheres top talents must sit out the party.
The Toulon man had Welsh fans fearing the worst after he was left gingerly flexing his leg after losing his footing when he attempted a field kick. What followed was a trip on the back of the dreaded ambulance buggy.
A short and snappy bulletin from the Welsh Rugby Union on Monday delivered the killer blow, confirming the absence of the 26-year old.
It read: “Disappointing update: Leigh Halfpenny ruled out of Rugby World Cup with ACL injury. Further assessment required. Get well soon Leigh!”
Wales’s legend wing Shane Williams in the aftermath of the incident questioned coach Warren Gatland’s choice to select Halfpenny against the Azzurri, and I have to concur with his point of view.
In fact, their chief goal-kicker started with his right leg strapped, suggesting he was already carrying an injury, which is never a good sign when you are up against one of the most physical sides in World Rugby. He should have been wrapped up in cotton wool for the World Cup in my opinion.
Halfpenny’s significance was highlighted on Saturday when he became just the third player in Welsh rugby to score 500 international points before he was injured.
But with the points machine now ruled out, focus switches to the pivot of the team, Rhys Webb after the scrum-half also left the pitch injured in the same game after suffering suspected ankle ligament damage.
The WRU may have made no announcement on Webb or a replacement for Halfpenny.
But at least in British and Irish Lion Mike Phillips they have a ready-made replacement if Webb is ruled out, bringing a wealth of ability and experience to the Welsh starting XV.
However at fullback, options are limited for Gatland, with the two other fullbacks in the squad, Bristol’s Matthew Morgan and Dragons’ Hallam Amos, having amassed just six caps between them.
These potential options are far from ideal heading into a World Cup, and probably answer the question of whether Wales have been too reliant on Halfpenny in recent years, with the answer being a resounding yes.
The Wales head coach is now left with a major hole to fill before the men in red kick off their World Cup campaign against Uruguay on September 20th.
And although rugby is a team game you have to believe after the loss of Halfpenny that their “Pool of Death”, which also includes Australia, England and Fiji, just got a whole lot tougher.