Wallabies feel for mate
THE absence of a Welsh sharpshooter the likes of Jonny Wilkinson is good news for the Wallabies at the rugby World Cup.
But for Australian pair Drew Mitchell and Matt Giteau, there is no joy to be taken from star Wales No.15 Leigh Halfpenny being ruled out of the tournament yesterday due a serious knee injury.
The Toulon duo count Halfpenny as a teammate and friend at their French club and though Australia’s chances in the “Pool of Death”, pool A, are boosted with him sidelined, Mitchell said he was disappointed for his Welsh mate.
“Myself and Gits had joked with him about potentially being out there and facing him but that’s not going to be an option; I am genuinely gutted for him,” Mitchell said yesterday from the US.
Rugby-mad Wales is in a state of mourning after scans revealed Halfpenny had ruptured his ACL in a warm-up game against Italy at the weekend. With top halfback Rhys Webb also ruled out with an ankle injury the recriminations have begun, with Welsh legends slamming coach Warren Gatland for playing Halfpenny in a meaningless match.
The Wallabies play Wales in London in their last game in pool A and it will likely be crucial to both teams’ chances of making the playoffs.
Halfpenny is small in stature but carries a huge on- field presence for Wales and Gatland will struggle to find anyone with the same impact.
Mitchell said he’d only seen one other player with the same dedication to perfection as Halfpenny.
“I have got to know him pretty well. I know how much work the guy puts in. In terms of his preparation and application to his game, apart from a guy like Jonny Wilkinson, Leigh is probably unrivalled in terms of not leaving any stone unturned,” he said.
“I spoke to him prior to getting the news and after as well, and he is obviously very upset.”
The Wallabies had no serious injuries after playing US.