Huge blow for Warren Gatland’s squad as Leigh Halfpenny ruled out of World Cup

Wales full-back Leigh Halfpenny has been ruled out of the World Cup after suffering knee ligament damage on Saturday.

Halfpenny was injured during Wales’ 23-19 World Cup warm-up victory over Italy at the Millennium Stadium and had scans on his knee yesterday.

Halfpenny was injured on a desperate day for Wales as scrum-half Rhys Webb, last season’s Welsh player of the year, damaged ankle ligaments and is also in serious danger of missing the World Cup.

The Toulon full-back’s worst fears were confirmed by the scan results and reports in France suggested Halfpenny could be out of rugby for as long as six months.

Halfpenny’s World Cup absence is a huge blow for Warren Gatland’s side as the reliable goal-kicker has scored 508 points in 62 Tests, with only Neil Jenkins and Stephen Jones scoring more points for Wales.

Coach Gatland must now summon replacements this week with British and Irish Lions pair James Hook and Mike Phillips — together with New Zealand-born Gareth Anscombe — in the frame for World Cup calls.

Gloucester utility back Hook and Racing 92 scrum-half Phillips were both cut from Gatland’s training squad last month, but their combined experience counts for more than 170 Wales caps.

Cardiff Blues back Anscombe is currently recovering from an ankle problem and, like Hook, offers goal-kicking expertise, although that key role seems set to be handed to outside-half Dan Biggar.

Liam Williams, who is poised to take a full part in training this week after being laid low by a foot injury, is the obvious candidate to take over Halfpenny’s full-back duties, with fellow Scarlet Gareth Davies the most likely starter at scrum-half in Webb’s absence.

Wales’ first Pool A fixture is against Uruguay on September 20 before they play England at Twickenham six days later. Fiji and Australia are also in the so-called ‘Pool of Death’.

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