Halfpenny blow weakens Welsh hopes

Date published: September 8 2015

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Some players are irreplaceable and Wales have lost a true world-class talent and a matchwinner with Leigh Halfpenny's ACL injury.

The confirmation that he will miss the Rugby World Cup is so severe for Wales that it even impacts the potential of what Warren Gatland's side can achieve in the tournament.

Wales have lost a lynchpin, and the World Cup itself has lost a leading talent. 

Focusing on Gatland's team, Halfpenny offers so much when you consider his ability under the high ball, how he helps Wales dictate territory with the boot and rarely lets down his team as the last line in defence, even if his tackling technique has landed him in trouble in the past.

He has already racked up over 500 points for Wales in his 62 caps to date and is still only 26, but among those points are also 12 tries for his country.

Halfpenny still has time to make another one, possibly two Rugby World Cups in the future. But that does nothing to cover the immediate damage of him missing out in 2015.

In the past Halfpenny has proven that he can help Wales not only snatch a late win but also keep teams at bay with consistently making penalties from all distances and angles.

During the Test series between the British and Irish Lions and Australia in 2013, Halfpenny chipped in with 13 penalties and five conversions under enormous pressure. Few kickers are more reliable than he has proven to be so far during his international career.

Wales have a very good kicking replacement with fly-half Dan Biggar, although he has slightly less range, and an exciting but very different type of full-back in Liam Williams, who has his own fitness concerns as he nears a full comeback from foot surgery.

Neither though offer the comfort and class that Halfpenny provides. There is no perfect replacement. 

Australia and England would never wish an injury on such a key player, but there's no denying Halfpenny's injury boosts their chances in a cramped Pool A that will be decided by fine margins.

Wales will still be incredibly competitive, inspired even more to succeed for their fallen mate.

Claiming that their chances to qualify for the knockout stages are over would be way off the mark, bordering on disrespectful. Yet without Halfpenny there is no denying they are weaker and their depth will be tested.

But this is a hammerblow in itself. How much damage Halfpenny's injury has done to Wales may only become apparent when they face England on September 26.

by Ben Coles

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