LONDON – Wales suffered a huge blow as fullback Leigh Halfpenny, whose superb goalkicking has been a key part of the team’s success in recent years, was ruled out of the Rugby World Cup with a knee injury on Monday.
Halfpenny sustained anterior cruciate ligament damage in his country’s final warmup win over Italy on Saturday and will play no part in the Sept.18-Oct. 31 showpiece.
“Leigh will undergo further examination and assessment before further details are announced,” the Welsh Rugby Union said in a short statement.
According to an unsourced report in French newspaper L’Equipe, the WRU has informed Halfpenny’s club side, Toulon, that the player will be out for at least six months and will not be available until March.
Wales, which was drawn into the toughest of the four groups alongside England and Australia, opens its Rugby World Cup campaign against Uruguay on Sept. 20.
Halfpenny, who has amassed 508 points in 62 tests for Wales and is renowned for his accuracy at goal, as well as being a fearless tackler and fine counter-attacker, pulled up holding his knee and was carried off late in the match against Italy in Cardiff.
Part of the feared Wales backline that won back-to-back Six Nations titles in 2012 and 2013, the British and Irish Lion has suffered a number of injuries in recent seasons.
He missed last summer’s tour of South Africa after being ruled out for four months following a shoulder injury.
The start of his Toulon career was delayed by a persistent groin problem, and a nasty concussion sustained in March against Italy in the Six Nations prompted some to question his tackling approach.
First-choice center Jonathan Davies also suffered a knee ligament injury in March which ruled him out of the World Cup while Wales could also be without scrumhalf Rhys Webb, who appeared to sustain a serious ankle injury against Italy.
Webb, who has established himself as the first choice No. 9 for Wales after a string of influential performances, was carried off on a stretcher during the first half after his left leg became trapped at the back of a ruck.
Wales has yet to provide a medical update on the player.