Gatland hits back over injured duo

Date published: September 8 2015

Warren Gatland has responded to criticism of his decision to play Leigh Halfpenny and Rhys Webb against Italy on Saturday.

The Welsh duo picked up ACL and foot injuries respectively and have been ruled out of the World Cup as a result.

Former Wales winger Shane Williams is among those who have questioned why the pair were playing in the final warm-up game against the Azzurri, particularly with Halfpenny playing with strapping on his knee.

However Gatland explained that the strapping was just precautionary, and that he needed to give his players game time to prepare for the key clashes in Pool A at the World Cup.

"There was more than one player out there with strapping," Gatland told Wales Online.

"Half a dozen players or probably more than that get strapped up before every game.

"Leigh had that strapping on before the game in Dublin (Wales won 16-10 against Ireland). It’s something he’d had there for the last three weeks and used it when he was kicking. He said he didn’t really need the strapping, but because he’d been using it for the last two or three weeks, he put it on.

"He had just been a little bit tight in the back of his knee about three weeks ago. It was nothing to do with the injury that he picked up on the weekend. And it wasn’t heavy strapping, it was very light strapping. I checked that out with the physios.

"I know there has been some criticism about protecting players and you always question yourself about that. It’s just trying to get the balance right between players having enough rugby and keeping players fresh.

"I looked at that before the game in terms of some of those players that had played the week before in Dublin.

"If they weren’t involved in the first group game against Uruguay and then played against England, well that’s four weeks between the two matches and for some of those players that’s a little bit long and they want to play a bit more.

"Look, people are entitled to their opinions and I understand the disappointment of everybody out there saying that certain players should have been protected, but you can’t predict everyone and you have a game to go out and win."