Halfpenny worry adds injury to insult for devastated Wales

Wales 12 Australia 14
Leigh Halfpenny: Wales full-back underwent scans in hospital after complaining of neck pain.

Leigh Halfpenny was discharged from hospital yesterday after being carried off during Wales’ 14-12 defeat by Australia at the Millennium Stadium.

Australia ended a deflating, injury-riddled autumn campaign for Wales in dramatic fashion when Kurtley Beale’s 80th-minute try saw the Wallabies edge home and leave their opponents shell-shocked.

Wales full-back Halfpenny was hurt during the dramatic closing seconds. He had earlier kicked four penalties to put Wales within sight of victory. Halfpenny, 23, was taken to Cardiff’s University Hospital Wales, where he underwent scans after complaining of neck pain.

“He was immediately admitted to hospital to exclude any serious neck injury, a process which thankfully has now been concluded,” said a Welsh Rugby Union statement.

The WRU added Halfpenny would now undertake a period of treatment and rehabilitation to ensure a swift return to play. A major contender to tour Australia with the Lions next summer, Halpenny was Wales’ outstanding performer during an autumn series that produced losses to Argentina, Samoa, New Zealand and Australia.

Mike Phillips, meanwhile, required just one word to sum up the Welsh response to a third successive Australian smash and grab raid – devastation.

Wales, World Cup semi-finalists last year and reigning RBS 6 Nation champions, suffered their first four-Test autumn whitewash after Kurtley Beale’s try 26 seconds from time gave the Wallabies a dramatic 14-12 success.

Wales have now lost eight games on the bounce against Australia and suffered 20 defeats from 21 appointments with the Wallabies, New Zealand and South Africa since head coach Warren Gatland took charge five years ago.

“It was a game we were in control of and it’s very difficult to talk about,” Wales scrum-half Phillips said.

“To lose again in the last minute like that, it’s devastation. We would rather lose by 50 points, I think. But we have got to take it on the chin.

“It’s a case of going back to the clubs and regions now, playing well and improving as individuals, and then come back as a squad and defend our (Six Nations) title.”

If victory over the Barbarians six months ago is discounted, Wales have not won a Test match since they clinched the Six Nations title and Grand Slam by beating France in Cardiff on March 17.

Their defence of that crown begins against Ireland in under nine weeks’ time, with interim head coach Rob Howley back at the helm for that campaign as Gatland begins full-time work as British and Irish Lions boss for next summer’s Australia tour.


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