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Rugby World Cup - Injury doubts

Sports Mole looks at some of the players facing fitness battles ahead of the 2015 Rugby World Cup.

Wales suffered a double blow in their final Rugby World Cup warm-up match at the weekend, with Leigh Halfpenny and Rhys Webb both picking up injuries that have ruled them out of the tournament that gets underway in nine days' time.

Warren Gatland is not the only coach with injury concerns heading into the tournament though, as a number of big-name players are still doubts for the event.

Here, Sports Mole takes a look at some of the stars struggling for fitness.

1. Cian Healy - Ireland

Leinster prop Cian Healy would normally be one of the first names on Joe Schmidt's teamsheet, but the 27-year-old has not featured in the team's warm-ups for the tournament after undergoing neck surgery at the end of last season.

Ireland's Cian Healy scores a try against Italy during their Six Nations match on March 8, 2014© Getty Images

When Healy underwent the surgery, it had been thought that he would be ready to prove his fitness before the World Cup gets underway, with Ireland having four warm-up games scheduled, but it has taken him longer than expected to recover.

However, Leinster have said that they will include him for the second round of the new Pro12 season if Ireland want him to get some game time before their match against Canada on September 19.

2. Sergio Parisse - Italy

Webb and Halfpenny were not the only players injured at the Millennium Stadium on Saturday, as Italy captain Sergio Parisse has undergone surgery following his side's 23-19 defeat in Cardiff.

France's fly-half Camille Lopez escapes from Italy's Sergio Parisse during the Six Nations international rugby union match between Italy and France on March 15, 2015© Getty Images

A blow to the leg left him needing a procedure to have fluid drained, placing his availability for their opening fixture against France on September 19 at Twickenham in jeopardy.

Italy will release more details about Parisse's recovery schedule in the coming days, but the Azzurri will be desperate to have the number eight available for their opening fixture, particularly after he set up their opening try against Wales at the weekend with a stunning interception.

3. Jean de Villiers - South Africa

Another captain that has had a setback in preparation for the tournament in Springboks skipper Jean de Villiers, who broke his jaw last month.

Captain Jean de Villiers of South Africa looks onduring the Castle Lager Outgoing Tour match between Wales and South Africa at Millennium Stadium on November 29, 2014© Getty Images

It has been a difficult period for the South Africa centre, who was already battling to prove his fitness after suffering a dislocated knee in an Autumn International against Wales last November.

While the team's doctor has insisted that the squad will be fully fit for their opening match of the tournament against Japan, it would not be a surprise to see the 34-year-old rested to avoid a setback, particularly as it has been reported that he sat out training earlier this week after being struck down by flu.

4. Liam Williams - Wales

Wales already had injury concerns before Webb and Halfpenny were ruled out, with Liam Williams yet to play after undergoing foot surgery in June.

Liam Williams of Wales celebrates scoring his try during the RBS 6 Nations match between Italy and Wales at Stadio Olimpico on March 21, 2015© Getty Images

The Scarlets full-back has already been tipped to take Halfpenny's spot in Gatland's team, but the coach will be wary of throwing the 24-year-old back in while short of match fitness.

Wales have a difficult group after a poor run of results before the draw was made left them in the third pot, meaning that they face England and Australia in Pool A. The 2011 semi-finalists begin the campaign against Uruguay though, so Gatland could save Williams for the potentially crucial clash with England at Twickenham six days later.

5. Fourie du Preez - South Africa

Fourie du Preez poses for a photo during the South African national rugby team photocall session on May 31, 2014© Getty Images

South Africa are not just sweating on the fitness of captain Jean de Villiers, as scrum-half Fourie du Preez has only resumed full-contact training this week after picking up a knee injury while training with his club earlier in the summer.

The 33-year-old, who has 70 caps for Heyneke Meyer's side, was part of the squad that won the 2007 World Cup, and is usually an automatic starter for the Springboks when fit.

However, he has spent the last six weeks recovering from torn medical collateral ligaments, so, like De Villiers, could be a candidate to be rested against Japan in their opening match of the campaign.

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Wales coach Warren Gatland raises a smile during Wales training at the Millennium stadium on November 3, 2014
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