Williams: Halfpenny may end on bench duty

Llanelli Star - - RUGBY -

MAR­TYN Williams can­not see Leigh Halfpenny mak­ing War­ren Gat­land’s start­ing XV at the World Cup next month.

The 30-year-old hasn’t played a Test for Wales since be­ing helped off the pitch in last au­tumn’s 9-6 win over Aus­tralia in Cardiff.

Scar­lets ace Halfpenny was left sprawled on the Prin­ci­pal­ity Sta­dium turf and suf­fered a pro­longed con­cus­sion prob­lem fol­low­ing a chal­lenge from Aus­tralia cen­tre Samu Kerevi that Wales coach War­ren Gat­land branded “reck­less”.

Halfpenny watched on from the side­lines as Wales sealed a Six Na­tions Grand Slam in 2019, with Josh Adams, Liam Williams and Ge­orge North forg­ing a po­tent back three in the clean sweep. And for­mer Lions and Wales flanker Mar­tyn Williams be­lieves it would take a ma­jor drop in form from one of the trio for Halfpenny to win his start­ing slot back.

The BBC rugby pun­dit told Matt Daw­son’s Ra­dio Five Live Rugby Show: “He (Leigh Halfpenny) doesn’t play au­to­mat­i­cally.

“The way that back three played in the Six Na­tions, Josh Adams was the find of the sea­son, he was ab­so­lutely su­perb.

“Liam Williams is nailed on, Ge­orge North, we know what he can do when he’s fit and firing.”

With 713 points in 80 ap­pear­ances, Halfpenny is third on Wales’s all-time list be­hind Neil Jenk­ins (1,049) and Stephen Jones (917) and has kicked his coun­try to some mem­o­rable wins dur­ing his decade in in­ter­na­tional rugby.

But Williams main­tains Wales have enough fire­power from the kick­ing tee to more than fill in for Halfpenny’s ab­sence.

And he points to Gat­land’s side hav­ing to go through their 2015 World Cup cam­paign with Halfpenny out in­jured to il­lus­trate their abil­ity to cope.

“Gareth An­scombe is a very ca­pa­ble goal-kicker, as is Dan Big­gar,” added the 100-times capped for­mer Wales flanker.

“Leigh Halfpenny missed the last World Cup as well in 2015 and Dan Big­gar stood up and kicked his goals.”

And look­ing to his back-three se­lec­tion for the World Cup next month, he said: “It’s a great de­bate to have and for me if it’s not broke you don’t fix it.

“Leigh Halfpenny is in the World Cup squad, 100 per cent.

“I think Leigh is a bench op­tion but def­i­nitely in the squad.

“He’s world class and played well when he’s come back with the Scar­lets.”

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