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Wales coach Warren Gatland defends decision to play Leigh Halfpenny

Wales coach Warren Gatland defends his decision to play Leigh Halfpenny against Italy, after it was confirmed that the full-back ruptured his cruciate knee ligaments.

Wales coach Warren Gatland has responded to critics of his decision to play full-back Leigh Halfpenny against Italy in the country's final Rugby World Cup warm-up match against Italy.

The Toulon player, removed on a stretcher 10 minutes from full time in Wales's 23-19 victory, damaged his right knee and tests confirmed Monday that the full-back has ruptured his anterior cruciate knee ligaments.

Former Wales international Shane Williams, among others, has suggested that the British and Irish Lions player should have been rested for the Italy clash, but Gatland has insisted that the strapping worn by Halfpenny during the tie was unrelated to the injury he sustained.

"There was more than one player out there with strapping," Gatland told reporters following news of the injury that has prematurely ended Halfpenny's World Cup. "Leigh had that strapping on before the game in Dublin. It's something he'd had there for the last three weeks and used it when he was kicking. He said he didn't really need the strapping, but because he'd been using it for the last two or three weeks, he put it on.

"He had just been a little bit tight in the back of his knee about three weeks ago. It was nothing to do with the injury that he picked up on the weekend. And it wasn't heavy strapping, it was very light strapping. I checked that out with the physios.

"I know there has been some criticism about protecting players and you always question yourself about that. It's just trying to get the balance right between players having enough rugby and keeping players fresh."

Halfpenny and injured teammate Rhys Webb have been replaced in the Wales squad by veteran scrum-half Mike Williams and Ospreys winger Eli Walker.

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