Halfpenny in for injured Williams as Wales change three

Leigh Halfpenny 2018 SB19
Warren Gatland has made three changes to his Wales side as they take on South Africa in the World Cup semi-final in Tokyo on Sunday.

Warren Gatland has made three changes to his Wales side as they take on South Africa in the World Cup semi-final in Tokyo on Sunday.

Two of those are injury-enforced, with Leigh Halfpenny replacing Liam Williams and Ross Moriarty starting in place of Josh Navidi.

The final change sees Jonathan Davies return to fitness and take his place in the starting line-up, having pulled out at the last minute before the quarter-final win over France.

Both Williams and Navidi have been ruled out for the remainder of the tournament, with Owen Lane called up after the latter’s withdrawal.

However Gatland revealed that Halfpenny had been close to making the Wales team before Williams suffered an ankle injury in training, and backed the experienced Scarlets man to step up.

He said: “Liam is undoubtedly a big loss from an attacking perspective and what he’s achieved in the game for the last year or so. But bringing in someone of the experience of Leigh Halfpenny gives us a different element.

“I think defensively he’s probably the best full-back in the world in terms of his aerial game, his coverage defensively. To be honest we had a long debate about whether we started Leigh in the first place, potentially to move Liam to the wing.

“Leigh was probably fairly unlucky that he wasn’t in the team in the first place. So we’re happy. Obviously disappointed for Liam who is a world-class player, but to bring in the experience of someone like Leigh Halfpenny and even Ross Moriarty coming in, it’s a change but we don’t think we’re weakened in any way with the changes we have made.”

While Halfpenny offers Wales another goal-kicking option, Gatland confirmed that Dan Biggar would continue to be the first choice from the tee, with he and Gareth Davies continuing in the half-backs, the latter winning his 50th cap.

Davies and Hadleigh Parkes are reunited in the centres, with George North and Josh Adams continuing on the wing.

In the pack, it is as you were against France, with the exception of Moriarty for Navidi. That means that Aaron Shingler gets his chance on the bench, where Owen Watkin will also feature after starting against Les Bleus.

Alun Wyn Jones captains the side again, moving level with Sergio Parisse on 142 caps as the second most capped player of all time, with just Richie McCaw out in front.

Wales team to face South Africa:

15. Leigh Halfpenny (Scarlets) 14. George North (Ospreys) 13. Jonathan Davies (Scarlets) 12. Hadleigh Parkes (Scarlets) 11. Josh Adams (Cardiff Blues) 10. Dan Biggar (Northampton Saints) 9. Gareth Davies (Scarlets)

1. Wyn Jones (Scarlets) 2. Ken Owens (Scarlets) 3. Tomas Francis (Exeter Chiefs) 4. Jake Ball (Scarlets) 5. Alun Wyn Jones (Ospreys) (c) 6. Aaron Wainwright (Dragons) 7. Justin Tipuric (Ospreys) 8. Ross Moriarty (Dragons)


16. Elliot Dee (Dragons) 17. Rhys Carre (Saracens) 18. Dillon Lewis (Cardiff Blues) 19. Adam Beard (Ospreys) 20. Aaron Shingler (Scarlets) 21. Tomos Williams (Cardiff Blues) 22. Rhys Patchell (Scarlets) 23. Owen Watkin (Ospreys)