Very sad news from Wales that Leigh Halfpenny, their excellent and high-scoring fullback, did his anterior cruciate ligament in the last warm-up match against Ireland on the weekend, and is out of RWC2015.
Young halfback Rhys Webb is also out after picking up a foot injury in the same match. Coach Warren Gatland has called in 99-test veteran Mike Phillips to replace Webb, and 1-cap youngster wing Eli Walker replaces Halfpenny.
In one sense – and only this one meagre sense – the timing of the injuries is beneficial. It gives the squad longer to adjust and to incorporate Phillips and Walker. But it’s a cruel blow to the Welsh who have benefitted massively from Halfpenny’s range and accuracy with the goal kicking, as well as scoring a dozen tries. He’s also been fairly solid defensively.
Big question for Gatland: do you adjust your game plans to accommodate reduced range and accuracy from your other kicking options?
All the other squads, I’d be sure, will take no pleasure in it at all, partly because you want to see the best players at the Cup. More than that, they’ll know that they’ll have their own injury dramas at some stage, and you don’t want to tempt the Rugby Gods with even a scrim sliver of schadenfreude.