Warren Gatland fearful of 'massive blow' from Rhys Webb and Leigh Halfpenny injuries
Martyn Thomas
September 5, 2015
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Wales head coach Warren Gatland did his best to remain positive on Saturday night as he was faced with a potentially damaging injury crisis on the eve of the Rugby World Cup.

Gatland's plans for the tournament, which kicks off in under two weeks, could lie in tatters come Monday after both Leigh Halfpenny and Rhys Webb were stretchered off in an insipid 23-19 home win over Italy.

Scrum-half Webb was the recipient of prolonged treatment on the pitch during the first half, and has since undergone a scan on his injured left ankle. Gatland confirmed it was not broken but Wales must wait to find out the extent of any ligament damage.

Halfpenny, meanwhile, required oxygen for a knee injury sustained as the game meandered towards a frustrating conclusion and the British and Irish Lion will also have an MRI, either on Sunday or Monday.

Wales refused to speculate on the severity of either ailment, but with Jonathan Davies already a long-term casualty, Gatland now faces the possibility of being without three of his first-choice back line at the World Cup.

"It's not great," he said. "You've got to feel for them if they are ruled out, it's a massive blow for them and disappointing for us. But you've just got to put that behind [you], work with the players that you've got, build them and the confidence going into the next game."

Gatland added: "Players want to play and unfortunately sometimes pick up injuries. Hopefully Liam Williams [Halfpenny's back-up] will take a full part in training next week and potentially in the next 24 or 48 hours, when we get the results back, we may have to sit down and start looking at replacements. But until then we're talking about the possibilities now but there's nothing concrete in our heads."

Wales captain Sam Warburton, himself returning from injury to make a first warm-up appearance, insisted he would not give up hope on "two huge players".

"I'm going to be optimistic until I hear otherwise for both the lads but you do really worry for them," he said.

"You see them down in a bit of pain on the pitch and that does sort of disrupt the players a little bit, because you hope for the best. They're your mates at the end of the day and you really hope they're OK."

Being out-scored two tries to one by Italy at home was not how Wales had envisaged signing off their warm-up campaign.

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Gatland admitted a performance that included a number of errors, and saw the ball stay in play for just 26 minutes, had been well below par.

"We made a lot of mistakes ourselves, it was a frustrating game. We've gone out with the intention of wanting to play rugby and it was just so stop-start the whole game," he added.

"They're a difficult team to put away and at the end of it, the thing we decided to do was make sure we won. I think that was the most important thing."

The injury woes were not confined to the victorious side, however, and Italy confirmed following the match that both Luca Morisi (knee) and Gonzalo Garcia (ankle) would require scans.

"It would have been terrible to end the warm-up matches with last week against Scotland [a 48-7 defeat], so thankfully we had today," Italy captain Sergio Parisse said. "I'm really happy that all the players on my team gave everything."

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