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Wales sweating on fitness of Rhys Webb and Leigh Halfpenny

Published 05/09/2015

Wales' Leigh Halfpenny was carried off the pitch on a medical cart
Wales' Leigh Halfpenny was carried off the pitch on a medical cart

Wales are playing an anxious waiting game before knowing the full extent of injuries suffered by Rhys Webb and Leigh Halfpenny during their final World Cup warm-up game against Millennium Stadium visitors Italy.

Wales head coach Warren Gatland confirmed that scrum-half Webb is undergoing a scan on an ankle injury, while Halfpenny will have a knee scan on Sunday or Monday.

Both players were carried off - Webb after 26 minutes and Halfpenny 11 minutes from time - as Wales laboured to a 23-19 success.

"Rhys is being scanned at the moment," Gatland said "Leigh will be scanned tomorrow or Monday.

"I haven't spoken to either player.

"It is not great, is it? If they are ruled out, it is a massive blow.

"It is one of those things. Players are wanting to play, and unfortunately, they sometimes pick up injuries."

Wales kick off their World Cup campaign against Uruguay in 15 days' time. Their pool also includes host nation England and twice-world champions Australia.

If Webb is sidelined by what appears to be an ankle ligament problem, it could open the door for 94 times-capped Mike Phillips to gain a recall.

Phillips was cut by Gatland from his training group last month, but he offers considerable experience. Wales' two World Cup squad scrum-halves alongside Webb are Gareth Davies and Lloyd Williams.

Liam Williams, meanwhile, would be an obvious starting replacment for Halfpenny, and he is set to be in full training with Wales next week following a foot problem which meant he took no part during the warm-up Tests.

Halfpenny kicked five penalties - he passed 500 points for his country in the process - before going off, while George North scored a try and fly-half Dan Biggar kicked a late penalty as Wales laboured to victory.

Gatland added: "Liam Williams is taking a full part in training next week, and potentially in the next 24-48 hours when we get the (scan) results back, we may have to sit down and start thinking about replacements.

"There is nothing concrete in our heads about that at the moment."

And Wales captain Sam Warburton said: "I am going to be optimistic for both of the lads.

"You do really worry for them when you see them in pain down on the pitch. They are your mates at the end of the day, and we really hope they are okay.

"It would be gutting if they are ruled out because they have put in so much effort. They are two huge players for us."

Wales' hopes of progressing from arguably the toughest group in World Cup history would undoubtedly suffer without Webb and Halfpenny, who are both pivotal parts of Gatland's plans.

Reflecting on the game, Gatland said: "We made a lot of mistakes. It was a frustrating game. We went out there with the intention of wanting to play rugby, and it was just so stop-start the whole game.

"We've gone from 43 minutes ball in play time last week (against Ireland) to 26 minutes this week.

"They (Italy) are a difficult team to put away. We turned the ball over on too many occasions.

"The players are going to have a close look at their own performances and just put that aside. You put it on the backburner and start thinking about training next week and the Uruguay World Cup game."

Italy, who are in the same World Cup pool as Ireland and France, also had injury problems, with centres Luca Morisi (knee) and Gonzala Garcia (ankle) both providing major cause for concern.

Asked about Webb and Halfpenny going off, Italy skipper Sergio Parisse said: "It is terrible from an injury point of view.

"Webb and Halfpenny are key players, especially Halfpenny. He does a great job every time he plays for Wales.

"I am really sorry for them."

On the game itself, Parisse added: "I was expecting a reaction from the team after last week (Italy lost 48-7 to Scotland), and we had that.

"We had a very good day from a psychological point of view - but I had no doubt that we would.

"I am really happy that my players gave everything today. We are not better than Wales, Ireland or France, but we can play good rugby if we are really concentrated and don't make stupid mistakes.

"For us, it is important that we play 100 per cent. If we play 80 per cent, teams will win the games against us, but if we play, then other teams must play at 100 per cent as well, or they can lose against us."

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