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Wales ended their Rugby World Cup warm up series with a 23-19 victory over
Italy at the Millennium Stadium but could have paid a heavy price for the victory.
Wales could have paid a hefty price for their victory over Italy as Rhys Webb
and Leigh Halfpenny are in doubt for the Rugby World Cup after both were stretchered
off in the match.
Webb went off with a suspected broken left ankle in the first half while Halfpenny
appeared to damage his right knee 10 minutes before full time. Halfpenny’s right knee, already heavily strapped, gave way as he moved to collect a kick.
Both players are now in serious doubt for the Rugby World Cup.
Wales coach Warren Gatland revealed after the match that Leigh Halfpenny would
have a scan on his knee on Sunday while Rhys Webb has not suffered a bone break
in his ankle.
Gatland said that Webb was is hospital for a scan and while it does not appear
to be a break it could be ligament damage.
Gatland and Wales now face an anxious wait for more news on two of their star
players, having already lost centre Jonathan Davies to a knee injury at the
start of the summer.
But the early signs at the Millennium Stadium were not encouraging just a fortnight
before the World Cup kicks off.
The injuries compounded a frustrating game for Wales who trailed 11-8 at half-time.
Wales failed to build on the confidence gained from victory over Ireland in
Dublin seven days earlier and were behind inside just two minutes.
Italy captain Sergio Parisse, back for the first time in the warm-up games,
picked off Alex Cuthbert’s pass intended for Taulupe Faletau as Wales threatened
Parisse galloped 70 metres upfield before he was finally hauled down just short
of the try line by Scott Williams. However, Italy were quickly in support and
wing Leonardo Sarto surged through Cuthbert on the line to score from close
Tommaso Allan missed with the conversion but slotted a penalty to hand Italy
a surprise ten-point lead after as many minutes in Cardiff.
Wales’s response was swift and emphatic with man of the match Scott Williams
Twice the centre was involved, first when he beat opposite number Gonzalo Garcia
to start the move. Sam Warburton, Jake Ball and Ken Owens all followed before
Williams fired a pass out wide to hand George North an easy finish on 13 minutes,
his 23rd in Test rugby.
Halfpenny missed the conversion but kicked a penalty that was soon cancelled
out by Allan’s second effort, before half-time.
Wales, under-pressure at the set-piece for much of the first half, began the
second period in far brighter fashion.
Halfpenny kicked two penalties after the break to hand Wales the lead for the
first time on 62 minutes, but Faletau again failed to collect the re-start and
Carlo Canna’s drop goal levelled the scores again.
A further two Halfpenny penalties saw Wales lead 20-14 following an immediate
impact off the bench by Ross Moriarty only for Welsh fortunes to be struck once
Halfpenny, who passed 500 points for Wales in the game, was left punching the
ground in frustration as he waited to be carried off the pitch as a stunned
52,000 fans watched on in horror.
Dan Biggar took over the kicking duties and landed a penalty five minutes from
But having opened the scoring, Italy also had the last say when replacement
Guglielmo Palazzani barged through Matthew Morgan on the line to score.
The conversion sailed wide and Wales were winners, but it hardly felt like
a victory given the potential loss of two key players.
Final Score Wales 23 (8) Italy 19 (11)
Tries – North