Wales will ‘move on quickly’ from Halfpenny blow – Howley
Wales will complete a first clean sweep of autumn Test victories if they beat South Africa on Saturday.
Rob Howley says that Wales will “move on quickly” from the blow of losing Leigh Halfpenny for Saturday’s Under Armour Series finale against South Africa.
The goalkicking full-back suffered concussion following a challenge by Australia centre Samu Kerevi when Wales beat the Wallabies 10 days ago.
Kerevi escaped sanction after the incident, but Wales are now without 80 times-capped Halfpenny for the Springboks fixture in Cardiff.
“It is disappointing to lose Leigh in the situation that it happened,” Wales assistant coach Howley said.
“It is disappointing to lose a quality player, but we move on quickly.
“He did some training on Saturday morning and he was still feeling a little bit light-headed.
“It is just a commonsense approach, really. A player’s welfare comes first. He unfortunately misses out this weekend.”
Howley, though, confirmed that wing George North, who suffered a dead leg and was forced off during the 9-6 victory over Australia, is back in full training and available for selection.
Wales head coach Warren Gatland will announce his starting line-up on Thursday, with Liam Williams and Gareth Anscombe seemingly the leading contenders to take over from Halfpenny.
Saracens back Williams started on the wing and scored two tries against Tonga last weekend, while the versatile Anscombe impressed at fly-half when Wales saw off Scotland and Australia.
Howley added: “We feel as if we have a lot of strength in depth in the back-three from the Six Nations and summer tour. Selections maybe a couple of years ago did not take too long, but now it is a really healthy debate.
“Liam Williams can step up there, Gareth Anscombe has played full-back and Hallam Amos. There is a lot of opportunity for those players.”
Ten thousand miles may separate Wales and Tonga, but we're united in our love of a post-match song. This is a marvellous example from our guests this weekend... 🇹🇴 pic.twitter.com/lyezsdQ0mi— Welsh Rugby Union 🏉 (@WelshRugbyUnion) November 17, 2018
If Anscombe moves positions, it would effectively open the door for 64 times-capped Dan Biggar to start at number 10, although his battle with Anscombe for fly-half duties is likely to run the full selection distance.
A win at South Africa’s expense would give Wales a first four-Test autumn clean sweep, while they are also chasing a ninth successive victory against all opponents for the first time since 1999.
When Wales last posted a ninth victory on the bounce – in the 1999 World Cup opener against Argentina – Howley was scrum-half and captain.
“It is a different era, and when you look back and compare and contrast,” Howley said.
“You make your own history when you wear the national jersey. Let’s get Saturday over, and hopefully it will be a winning game.
“Personally, I have never experienced a squad with the strength in depth that we have got, with everyone that is given an opportunity taking that opportunity.
“International rugby is about winning also, and it’s not always about style, it’s substance also. There has been really good substance in our games over the last few weeks.”
Wales have beaten the Springboks in four of their last five meetings, including a 22-20 success earlier this year, but South Africa are fresh from defeating France and Scotland following a controversial loss to England.
“With our game on the weekend you have two defensive walls,” he added. “Both sides have great line-speed and there is not going to be a lot of space out there.
“We have always enjoyed playing South Africa. When you win, you enjoy the game, but they have been tough games.”