Rugby Union

What will Warren Gatland do after Wales suffer key injuries?

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What will Warren Gatland do now?

Wales scrum-half Rhys Webb has been ruled out of the Rugby World Cup because of a foot injury. Webb joins full-back Leigh Halfpenny in missing the tournament after being injured in Saturday's final warm-up game with Italy in Cardiff.

The 26-year-old is replaced by Lions scrum-half Mike Phillips while Ospreys wing Eli Walker is also drafted back in to the squad to take Halfpenny's spot. 


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Big Misses

Both Webb and Halfpenny are integral to how Gatland likes his sides to play the 'Warrenball' tactic. Webb provides the spark around the fringes and moves Gatlands big ball carriers around the park with great effect.

As for Halfpenny, his goal kicking does all the talking. Gatland relied so much on Halfpenny to keep the scoreboard ticking when his 'power' players would get over the 'game line' and inflict penalties on the opposition.  Now what does Gatland do?

What are Gatland's options?

Gatland's worst fears have now been realised with the loss of Webb and Halfpenny.

Webb has established himself as Wales' leading scrum-half, having been outstanding during last season's Six Nations Championship. Halfpenny has scored 508 points in 62 appearances for his country. 

But what can Gatland do to fix the problem? Mike Phillips and Dan Biggar are the obvious choices. 

Phillips will add plenty of experience on his return to the squad, having played in two previous World Cups during a 94-cap career. But the question remains will his experience mean that he goes from fourth to first choice? 

As for Biggar, his stats and percentages for the Ospreys over the last few years show he can be reliable with the boot, however he now has more to think about on the field, not just marshalling the forwards and his backs. Also he most certainly doesn't have the kicking range that Halfpenny naturally has got. 

However even with these able replacements Gatland's bench and squad now starts to look inexperienced and lacks depth in 'proven class'. Something which everybody knows wins championships and the pinnacle World Cups. 

What does remain is how Gatland's side will now play at this World Cup, as it appears the more 'running' and 'attacking' Scarlets fullback Liam Williams will wear the 15 shirt for his first game.

So will Gatland abandon his go-to plan of 'Warrenball' for a more expansive game? It's highly doubtful, but all shall be revealed soon enough.

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Leigh Halfpenny
Wales Rugby
Rugby Union
IRB Rugby World Cup

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