TOKYO (Reuters) - Wales fullback Liam Williams has been ruled out of the remainder of the Rugby World Cup after sustaining an ankle injury at training with Leigh Halfpenny replacing him in the side for Sunday’s semi-final against South Africa.
“He’s undoubtedly a big loss from an attacking perspective,” coach Warren Gatland told reporters on Friday.
“But bringing in the experience of someone like Leigh Halfpenny gives us a different element. Defensively he’s probably the best fullback in the world in terms of his aerial game and his coverage defensively.”
Gatland said the coaching team had in any case debated starting Halfpenny for his defensive qualities, and moving Williams to the wing.
“Obviously disappointed for Liam, who is a world class player, but we are happy. It is a change but we don’t think we are weakened in any way.
Centre Jonathan Davies has also been named for the match in Yokohama on Sunday after he was a late withdrawal from the team that beat France 20-19 in the quarter-final last Sunday.
“He’s come through training this week,” Gatland said. “He was very close last week but made a decision to rule himself out for the betterment of the team.”
Williams is the second withdrawal for the Six Nations champions this week, after loose forward Josh Navidi injured his hamstring in the quarter-final, with winger Owen Lane called up as a replacement.
A replacement in the squad for Williams, who has won 62 caps and started all of Wales’s World Cup games except one, is yet to be confirmed.
Wales: 15-Leigh Halfpenny, 14-George North, 13-Jonathan Davies, 12-Hadleigh Parkes, 11-Josh Adams, 10-Dan Biggar, 9-Gareth Davies, 8-Ross Moriarty, 7-Justin Tipuric, 6-Aaron Wainwright, 5-Alun Wyn Jones, 4-Jake Ball, 3-Tomas Francis, 2-Ken Owens, 1-Wyn Jones
Replacements: 16-Elliot Dee, 17-Rhys Carre, 18-Dillon Lewis, 19-Adam Beard, 20-Aaron Shingler, 21-Tomos Williams, 22-Rhys Patchell, 23-Owen Watkin.
Reporting by Greg Stutchbury; Editing by Shri Navaratnam