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Warren Gatland standing firm despite Leigh Halfpenny injury woe

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Warren Gatland has seen his Wales side hit with an injury double-blow two weeks before the tournament begins

Warren Gatland has seen his Wales side hit with an injury double-blow two weeks before the tournament begins

Paul Harding/PA Wire

Warren Gatland has seen his Wales side hit with an injury double-blow two weeks before the tournament begins

Warren Gatland has defended his decision to play Leigh Halfpenny in Wales' final World Cup warm-up game against Italy.

British and Irish Lions full-back Halfpenny suffered a serious knee injury in Wales' 23-19 victory in Cardiff on Saturday and was ruled out of the World Cup on Monday.

Wales legend Shane Williams questioned Gatland's decision to play Halfpenny given the goal-kicker's importance, but Gatland, who yesterday also lost his first-choice scrum-half Rhys Webb for the tournament with a foot injury, hit back.

"Half a dozen players or more get strapped up before every game," he said. "Leigh had that strapping on before the game in Dublin. He said he didn't need it, but because he'd been using it for the last two weeks, he put it on.

"It was nothing to do with the injury that he picked up. I know there has been criticism about protecting players. It's trying to get the balance right between having rugby and keeping fresh."

Gatland has called Mike Phillips and Eli Walker into the squad to cover the absences of Halfpenny and Webb.

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