Ex-players and coaches bemoan Wales' double injury blow
ESPN Sports Media Ltd.
September 7, 2015
© Dan Mullan/Getty Images

Shane Williams has questioned Wales coach Warren Gatland's decision to field Leigh Halfpenny against Italy on Saturday after the full-back suffering a suspected knee ligament injury.

Toulon full-back Halfpenny should learn the results of scans on his knee on Monday but his participation at the World Cup is in grave threat. Former Wales wing Williams admitted the country is already "in mourning" over injuries to Halfpenny and scrum-half Rhys Webb.

"It's just horrendous for Wales," said Williams at the launch of ITV's World Cup coverage. "Rhys Webb has been the form player for Wales over the last two seasons. To lose Halfpenny as well, it's just a massive blow for Wales and it couldn't have come at a worse time.

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"You kind of thought 'do we need this guy on the field? Let's wrap him up in cotton wool and roll him out when we really need him'. It is a massive blow and Wales is in mourning already. Especially with Halfpenny, he was strapped up on his leg anyway.

Wales edged out Italy 23-19 at the Millennium Stadium in their final World Cup warm-up clash, but the collateral damage could dent their chances at the fast-approaching global tournament.

Former Scotland and British and Irish Lions coach Sir Ian McGeechan called on Gatland to draft Mike Phillips back into his Wales squad in the event Webb misses the World Cup.

"You've got to look now at what they can do and the potential replacements," said McGeechan. "And I was surprised they dropped Mike Phillips, he really impressed me in 2009.

"The build-up to the World Cup is three or four months so you've got control of the players in fitness terms, so you can prepare them as you need, not rely on what happens elsewhere. Although he's lost his number-one nine, he's got to be looking at how he shakes that up with the others."

World Cup winner and former Australia fly-half Michael Lynagh admitted Wales' potential injury plight could benefit the Wallabies in Pool A. Wales, England and Australia are all fighting for the two quarter-final berths from the 'group of death', with Lynagh reluctantly accepting Gatland's men may now lose a vital edge.

"It does help Australia," said Lynagh. "But I'm just terribly upset for the players involved. You really don't want to see anyone miss a World Cup through injury, especially not picking up problems at this late stage. Leigh Halfpenny, in goal-kicking terms, he's the best around. Other people have to step up."

ESPN is proud to announce an exclusive 1-hour special - Cheika's Wallabies: Hope of a Nation - premiering on ESPN Weds Sept 9 at 9pm AEST (11pm NZ). ESPNscrum's leading rugby expert Greg Growden goes one-on-one with the Wallabies coach in this exclusive special that gives a rare insight into the intriguing personality of Australia's head coach.

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