Williams: Halfpenny may end on bench duty
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.”