Leigh Halfpenny could have been pole-axed out of the rest of the autumn series – an assault Wales are still fuming over.
The Wales full-back is in danger of missing the remaining matches against Tonga and South Africa after being concussed by a late tackle against Australia.
Halfpenny is undergoing recovery protocols following the challenge by the Wallabies’ Samu Kerevi which left the Scarlets star wiped out on the Principality turf on Saturday night.
Halfpenny was cleaned-out by Kerevi after kicking ahead and was forced to leave the field and undergo back to play regulations following the head knock.
Referee Ben O’Keefe consulted with his TMO and decided to not even award a penalty, judging that Kerevi’s late shoulder to the head was a fair challenge.
Scarlets outside-half Rhys Patchell has already missed the opening two games of the four match series as he continues to recover from his HIA incident earlier in the season and now Halfpenny has to pass the protocols before being passed fit to face Tonga this weekend and South Africa on 24 November.
“It’s unbelievable to think that wasn’t a penalty. I’m not quite sure what the rules state at this time, but Leigh is a tough old player who is constantly getting up and playing on and doesn’t go down lightly,” said Wales kicking coach Neil Jenkins.
“For him to go down and suffer an HIA there is certainly some form of head contact. The ref didn’t think so on the day, so we’ve just got to get on with it.
“He will go through his protocols and see where he is later in the week. We’re hoping Tomas Francis will be OK for the weekend and it’s the same with George North.
“He took a heavy knock and we’ll see how he goes over the next few days. The boys are a bit battered and bruised because it was a tough, tough test match as you’d always expect against Australia.
“We managed to scrape through for the first time in 10 years to make it back to back victories at the start of the autumn for the first time. We are very upbeat.”
If Halfpenny doesn’t come through his HIA tests Jenkins isn’t worried about the gap he will leave in the goalkicking department. When he went off last weekend it was Dan Biggar who came on to slot the winning penalty in the 76th minute that secured a 9-6 victory to end a run of 13 successive defeats to the Wallabies.
“Leigh is world class and we are very lucky to have him, even though he missed a couple last weekend which is very unlike him,” said Jenkins.
“We do have other world class kickers in our squad like Dan Biggar and Gareth Anscombe. I had no issues with Dan stepping up to take that kick last weekend, it was a bread and butter kick for him that we expected him to get it, and he did.”
Patchell is another kicking option for Wales and he is likely to come into contention over the final two weekends after recovering from his head knock. Clubmate Samson has been ruled out of the rest of the series, though, with a hamstring injury.