It was Rhys Webb and Leigh Halfpenny in 2015 and now the Welsh pre-World Cup injury jink has struck again with Gareth Anscombe falling at the first hurdle at the weekend.
The 2019 Grand Slam outside-half, a key figure in Warren Gatland’s offensive plans, limped out of Sunday’s 33-19 defeat to England at Twickenham and had his worst fears confirmed today when a scan on his right knee confirmed cruciate ligament damage.
A timescale for his recovery has not been given, but the Welsh Rugby Union said in a statement that Anscombe will miss the whole tournament.
Anscombe later Tweeted: “Not quite the way I was hoping my World Cup dream would finish. Been a pretty tough 24 hours to take but I’m very thankful and humbled for all the kind well wishes. On a positive note I’m excited to watch this @welshrugbyunion team go on and do something special. #cmoncymru”
It means Gatland now has to re-think his attack with Dan Biggar ready to resume as first-choice at No 10. Jarrod Evans and Rhys Patchell now move up the pecking order, but Dan has to be the main man for Wales in Japan!
Not quite the way I was hoping my World Cup dream would finish. Been a pretty tough 24 hours to take but I’m very thankful and humbled for all the kind well wishes. On a positive note I’m excited to watch this @welshrugbyunion team go on and do something special. #cmoncymru pic.twitter.com/G914fYkHGp
— Gareth Anscombe (@Gareth_Anscombe) August 12, 2019
Taulupe Faletau was the first member of Wales’ 40 strong squad to be ruled out after he damaged his collar bone in a training incident. Anscombe has now followed and Gatland is awaiting the results of a scan on Tomas Williams’s injured shoulder.
And, with three friendlies to go before the big kick-off at the World Cup against Georgia, there are also nagging injury worries troubling forwards Rob Evans, Cory Hill and Samson Lee. While Gatland shares the fears of many fans wondering about the reasoning behind four warm-up matches, he knows after watching the defeat at Twickenham that his players need matches to get rid of their obvious rustiness.
“That’s the risk you take when you’re playing these friendlies, you’ve got to watch out for injuries,” commented 1987 World Cup star, Jonathan Davies.
“It’s very disappointing for Gareth Anscombe and the squad. You want to have your best players available during the World Cup, so to lose Taulupe Faletau, who is world-class, and then Anscombe are two big blows.
“If they pick Dan Biggar it will affect Wales’ style of play a great deal. In the Six Nations, Anscombe played football and then Dan came on to close the game. Jarrod Evans and Rhys Patchell have the opportunity now to step-up in training and those two are very similar to the way Anscombe plays.”