Rugby World Cup: Injury not Warren Gatland's fault says Wales Leigh Halfpenny
As Leigh Halfpenny took his seat in a central London hotel yesterday, a waiter offered him a coffee. "I can't, I'm afraid," said the Welshman, ruefully. "I've got surgery in an hour."
When the waiter returned with a small glass of water, the full-back began to relax - or as much as he can, considering the state of his right knee - and reflected on the events that ended with him stricken on the Millennium Stadium turf 11 days ago.
There were just 11 minutes left in Wales' final World Cup warm-up game against Italy when Halfpenny, considered to be their key player, attempted to change direction to gather a bouncing ball. "I heard a snap," he recalled. "I just remember being on the floor in agony. I was just thinking: 'That could be it. That could be my World Cup done.'"
Sadly, it was. Scans diagnosed a ruptured anterior cruciate knee ligament and the 26-year-old underwent reconstructive knee surgery yesterday afternoon at the Cromwell Hospital in Kensington.
With rehabilitation expected to take six to eight months, Halfpenny's season is over already. Not only will he be absent for the World Cup, he is likely to miss the Six Nations and almost certainly Toulon's attempt to win a fourth successive European Cup.
But he wants to make one thing crystal clear - this was not head coach Warren Gatland's fault.
"The injury isn't related to the strapping I had on," he said. "That was a bump I had picked up in training a few weeks before. Is it unfair Warren has been blamed? Yes. I was absolutely fine to play."
Even so, when he described the moment the diagnosis was confirmed on the Monday after the Italy game his voice dropped to a whisper and he looked at the floor. The emotion was clear.
"I had my scan and was on the way back home with my girlfriend and my mum and dad," he said.
"The results came back pretty quickly. The Welsh physio (Prav Mathema) rang me and when I saw his name I knew.
"I answered the phone and he said: 'It's not great news I'm afraid. You need an operation and it's six to eight months out'. I was devastated."