Wales star Halfpenny misses Scarlets match

By Sports Desk February 15, 2019

Leigh Halfpenny remains a doubt for the Six Nations clash with England after the Wales star was left out of the Scarlets team to face Benetton Treviso this weekend.

The British and Irish Lions full-back has not featured since November, having suffered concussion while playing for Wales against Australia in Cardiff.

However, Halfpenny reported for training with the national team this week and was then released to return to the Scarlets, seemingly hinting at his return in Pro14 action on Saturday.

Yet Halfpenny has been left out of the region's matchday squad, not even making the bench just a week before Wales' crunch Six Nations meeting with England at Principality Stadium.

Both Wales and England have won their first two matches of the campaign, but Halfpenny's absence would prove a blow to Warren Gatland's men.

There was at least better news on Scarlets team-mate Rhys Patchell, who has been struggling with a hamstring injury, as he was named among the replacements against Treviso.

Related items

  • Rugby World Cup 2019: All Blacks boss Hansen condemns 'pretty obvious' Erasmus referee tactics Rugby World Cup 2019: All Blacks boss Hansen condemns 'pretty obvious' Erasmus referee tactics

    New Zealand coach Steve Hansen claims rival boss Rassie Erasmus was wrong to question standards of Test refereeing ahead of South Africa's Rugby World Cup opener.

    The All Blacks face the Springboks in the first match of their title defence, yet the build-up to a mammoth clash between the world champions and Rugby Championship winners has been overshadowed by Erasmus' criticism of the officiating.

    The South Africa boss claimed it is a "well-known fact" that New Zealand have in the past received preferential treatment from referees.

    Hansen feels Erasmus has blatantly attempted to put pressure on Jerome Garces, Saturday's man in the middle, and suggested both teams would benefit from letting the referee get on with his job.

    "It's pretty obvious what they're trying to do and, while I've got a lot of respect for South Africa and particularly Rassie, I think he's a great coach, I don't agree with what he's doing," Hansen told reporters.

    "He's trying to put pressure on referees externally and they're under enough pressure already. They don't need us coaches doing what he's doing.

    "It doesn't matter who your ref is. As a coach or a team, you can always find things after the game that they didn't do and you can get emotional about that and think that they're picking on you and not on the opposition. We've done it ourselves.

    "At the end of the day, they try to do the best they can do. Yes, they don't always get it right all the time and we've suffered from that just like other teams have.

    "It's a big game, we just need to let the ref get on with it and prepare for it himself."

    He added of the officials' ability to cope with the pressure: "They're not stupid people, so you'd hope [they can deal with it]."

    Garces has run the rule over five previous Tests between New Zealand and South Africa - each of them All Blacks wins - sending off Springboks centre Damian de Allende in 2017.

    However, the French referee also dismissed Scott Barrett for the All Blacks against Australia last month.

    Barrett said ahead of meeting Garces again: "There's obviously a fine line and I've learned from that and am keen to move on.

    "The laws are there for a reason, to protect players and player welfare, and I've been working hard and keen to address that. We've had the briefing and we're well aware how they'll be reffing high shots and foul play."

  • Rugby World Cup 2019: Australia v Fiji Rugby World Cup 2019: Australia v Fiji

    Michael Cheika insists he is not feeling any great pressure heading into the Rugby World Cup as Australia prepare for their opener against Fiji.

    The Wallabies reached the 2015 final before losing to New Zealand, but results have not been as impressive as Cheika might have hoped in the intervening four years.

    However, hopes were renewed when Australia defeated the All Blacks 47-26 in the Rugby Championship in Perth last month.

    New Zealand won a return fixture the following week to retain the Bledisloe Cup, yet it is clear Cheika and the Wallabies have drawn encouragement from their impressive initial victory.

    Cheika has named 14 of the players that started that match in his XV to tackle Fiji on Saturday, with only experienced star David Pocock introduced in place of Lukhan Salakaia-Loto.

    And the Australia head coach, who would surely see his job come under threat with poor performances in Japan, is feeling relaxed.

    "You should know me well enough now - there is not much pressure," Cheika told reporters in Sapporo. "I love what I do.

    "I am prepared to take responsibility and accountability and always have been for everything I do.

    "I'm not being judged by anyone as markers [of performance] except myself and you know that I am coming here to win with our team."

    Fiji have not beaten Australia since 1954 but have shifted former NRL star Semi Radradra to the left wing in a bid to unsettle the Wallabies.

    Vereniki Goneva, the country's record try-scorer, only makes the bench as a result.

    Coach John McKee said: "It's been pleasing to see every player put their hand up to earn their spot.

    "Every person knows the job they have to do and I'm sure they'll be looking forward with excitement and anticipation to the challenge on Saturday.

    "The team have worked hard to this point and, as we wrap up preparations, the captain's run will also be important for our focus on this opening match."


    PLAYERS TO WATCH

    Australia - Christian Lealiifano

    It is remarkable that Lealiifano is in the Australia squad at all, let alone in the XV. He returned to the team in July for the first time since being diagnosed with blood cancer leukaemia and quickly impressed in the Rugby Championship. Lealiifano is moving to Japan permanently after the World Cup, having left the Brumbies, and will be keen to stand out.

    Fiji - Semi Radradra

    It would make for an incredible story were Radradra able to cause Australia some damage on Saturday. A former Parramatta Eels wing, he played once for the Kangaroos - Australia's national rugby league side - before switching codes. Radradra has largely played at outside centre in union but has the attributes to worry the Wallabies.
     

    KEY OPTA FACTS

    - Australia are unbeaten in their past 17 games against Fiji (W16, D1), their last defeat in this fixture coming in June 1954 by a margin of just two points.

    - This will be the third meeting between Australia and Fiji at the Rugby World Cup. The Wallabies secured victories against Fiji in both the 2007 and 2015 editions.

    - The Wallabies lost their most recent Rugby World Cup fixture – the 2015 final – and will therefore be aiming to avoid back-to-back defeats at the Rugby World Cup for the first time since the 1987 tournament where they were beaten in succession by France and Wales.

    - Fiji have won five of their most recent six international fixtures, including their past three on the bounce; the last time they won more in succession was a four-game stretch from June to July in 2017.

    - Pocock has won 29 turnovers at the Rugby World Cup, more than any other player in the history of the competition.

  • Rugby World Cup 2019: Sanchez starts against France but Leguizamon misses out Rugby World Cup 2019: Sanchez starts against France but Leguizamon misses out

    Fly-half Nicolas Sanchez will bring his experience of French rugby to the Argentina team for their Rugby World Cup opener.

    Sanchez has played in the Top 14 since 2011 and will hope his knowledge of the France side can aid the Pumas in a crucial early World Cup clash.

    The 30-year-old is one of three players in the Argentina XV set to feature at a third finals, along with Agustin Creevy and Juan Figallo.

    Creevy will earn his 86th cap, moving level with Juan Manuel Leguizamon.

    However, Leguizamon, one cap short of Felipe Contepomi's Pumas record of 87, is left out of Mario Ledesma's matchday squad.

    Argentina XV to play France: Emiliano Boffelli, Matias Moroni, Matias Orlando, Jeronimo de la Fuente, Ramiro Moyano, Nicolas Sanchez, Tomas Cubelli; Nahuel Tetaz Chaparro, Agustin Creevy, Juan Figallo, Guido Petti, Tomas Lavanini, Pablo Matera, Marcos Kremer, Javier Ortega Desio.

    Replacements: Julian Montoya, Mayco Vivas, Santiago Medrano, Matias Alemanno, Tomas Lezana, Felipe Ezcurra, Benjamin Urdapilleta, Santiago Carreras.

© 2018 SportsMaxTV All Rights Reserved.