Gatland hits back at critics after injury blow
Published 09/09/2015 | 02:30
Warren Gatland has hit back at criticism of his decision to play Leigh Halfpenny in Saturday's victory against Italy, saying the knee injury that has ruled the Wales full-back out of the World Cup was completely unrelated to the strapping Halfpenny wore on the joint during that match.
Former Wales stars Shane Williams and JJ Williams both questioned the decision to play Halfpenny with his knee already strapped but Gatland said that the Toulon star had not been carrying an injury and insisted that it had nothing to do with the ligament damage he sustained.
"Leigh 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," said Gatland.
"I understand the disappointment, but you can't protect everyone and you have a game to go out and win."
The Wales coach described the tournament-ending injuries to Halfpenny and scrum-half Rhys Webb as "devastating".
But the head coach said that he had complete confidence in his squad to compensate for their departures, adding that a fit-again Liam Williams offered Wales a "different type of attacking player" at full-back, while scrum-half Gareth Davies could "take the World Cup by storm".
Wales have called veteran scrum-half Mike Phillips and Ospreys winger Eli Walker into their squad, with Gatland suggesting that both might get a run-out in their opener against Uruguay on September 20.
"The experience Mike brings will be pretty invaluable. Eli is a pretty exciting player but pretty inexperienced. Hopefully those players might be involved in the first match."