How will Webb and Halfpenny injuries affect Wales’ World Cup hopes?
The match between Wales (9/2 with Coral to win Pool A) and Italy was an unsightly one. Wales scraping a win of 23-19 was trickled with scrums lacking any power against the Italian front and a poor pass by Alex Cuthbert straight into the hands of Sergio Parisse for Italy to score a try.
But Wales’ poor playing went under the radar due to the disastrous injuries to Rhys Webb and Leigh Halfpenny.
Wales were fighting hard against Italy until 26 minutes in and Webb became trapped in a ruck, receiving treatment for six minutes on the field until he was taken off by a stretcher and sent straight to hospital. It was a deflating moment for the players and the fans, the screams of agony from Webb heard through the refs mic was clear how serious this injury was.
From there the players struggled, allowing a strong Italy to show themselves off, especially Parisse who was strong throughout the game.
Coming back after half-time, Wales kicked into gear, with George North getting a superb try in the corner after some fantastic passing and skill by Scott Williams, his side’s only one of the night, relying on the boot of Leigh Halfpenny to rack up the score.
It was then at the 69th minute that Wales pulled at the heart strings again. With Halfpenny twisting his right knee, already heavily strapped up, and crumpling to the ground. Receiving oxygen on the pitch, he was taken off by a stretcher were he, like Webb, is currently awaiting results. But as time goes, it seems more and more likely that these two players’ World Cup dreams are now over.
Although two key players have been lost, and World Cup glory looks more distant, it isn’t over for the side.
Head coach Warren Gatland has some heavy decisions to make now, Halfpenny is one of the best kickers in rugby, but with Dan Biggar, he may not have the distance but anyone who has an interest in the Guinness Pro 12 and Europe’s Rugby Championship Cup will know Biggar is one of the best and most feared goal kickers in the world.
While Webb was one of Wales’ most outstanding scrum-halves, with Gareth Davies and Lloyd Williams already selected to take the role in the squad, it is very likely that Gatland may bring back 95 time capped Mike Phillips.
For Gatland and all Welsh fans, there is one man they can’t do without when they take on England. That is Alun Wyn Jones, a man instrumental in leading the side to victory. In doubt over his place in the team after picking up an injury of a twisted knee playing against Ireland, Jones has been working hard in recovery, something the team need now. With his leadership qualities and his strength in the scrum he is vital to the progression of the quarter-finals.
All is not lost for the side, but they have hit a bump in the road. At 18/1 to win the World Cup, Wales have some hard choices to make for the opening game of the tournament against Uruguay.