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Halfpenny injury rocks Wales

Mon, 10 Mar 2014 08:27
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You've got to get yourselves up
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Wales' Six Nations misery was compounded by injuries to Leigh Halfpenny and Rhys Webb, following their 18-29 loss to England at the weekend.

Coach Warren Gatland confirming Halfpenny's shoulder injury has ruled him out of their final match of the season - when they host Scotland in a dead rubber in Cardiff on Saturday.

Gatland's side suffered their first defeat in four matches against England, but their second on the road in this Championship and as a result, Wales' hopes of a third straight title are over.

Tries from Danny Care and Luther Burrell - as well as 19 points from Owen Farrell - did the damage, while Wales had just six Halfpenny penalties to show for their efforts.

Neither kicker missed an attempt at goal and Halfpenny was arguably Wales' best performer, but a successful last-ditch tackle to deny Burrell late on resulted in injury.

"I'm not too sure about Rhys [ankle injury]," the Gatland said, adding: "But definitely that'll be Leigh's season over, which is disappointing for him.

"Leigh has dislocated his shoulder and will be out for the rest of the Championship, that's his season over," said Gatland.

Halfpenny's injury means Gatland will make at least one change against Scotland at the Millennium Stadium and he hinted at a few more - but the New Zealander believes it's crucial that Wales end their campaign on a high.

He added: "A good performance against Scotland is paramount for us.

At times we've played well and at times we haven't and that's disappointing so next week is vital to finish the campaign on a positive.

Gatland admitted fatigue may have been a factor in his side's performance, with a number of his Wales players having turned out for the Lions last year in their tour of Australia.

"It think it's been tough 18 months for these players in retrospect, a Grand Slam and a Lions tour and it's been tough on them.

"But this is professional sport and you've got to get yourselves up and unfortunately we weren't as good as we can be and that's disappointing.

"I think [England] are a good side but I think the two teams cancelled each other out for long periods.

"We got in at 20-15 at half-time having not played too well and we thought that if we were more accurate, didn't turn the ball over as much, then it could have been a pretty different ball game.

"I don't think there's a massive amount between these sides. Teams are pretty close in this competition and the top four teams can beat each other on the day if they get their performance right and England got their right."

Captain Sam Warburton admitted the hosts deserved their victory, but refused to be drawn on which of England, France or Ireland will take the Six Nations off Wales for the first time since 2011.

"That game, the 30-3 last year, was just one of those games where everything clicks for you. That happens once in a blue moon," he said.

"That happened for us last year, but this year England deserved the win.

"It can go either way. I think that's what the great thing about this year's championship is. We've gone into the fourth game and nobody really knows who's going to win.

"Ireland, statistically, are probably favourites to win it, but I still think it's between three teams that can win it next week, which is great for the championship."

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