Wales worry over Leigh Halfpenny's injury

Leigh Halfpenny
Halfpenny has won 19 caps for Wales since his debut in 2008

Wales coach Warren Gatland has revealed Leigh Halfpenny is a major doubt for this autumn's World Cup in New Zealand.

Cardiff Blues wing Halfpenny, 22, is recovering from an operation on the persistent foot injury which disrupted his season with club and country.

"Leigh Halfpenny, despite being in a boot, is making good progress," said Gatland.

"He's still going to be touch and go whether he gets selected for the World Cup squad."

Halfpenny has been included in Wales' provisional 45-man squad, which will be reduced to 30 for the World Cup.

Despite the injury, the 2009 British and Irish Lion will travel with the rest of the squad to Poland on Saturday for the first of two separate week-long training camps in Spalas.

And Gatland said the lack of strength in depth at full-back and wing could force him to take Halfpenny to New Zealand even if he missed Wales' three warm-up matches in August.

"We just think he's such a quality player that if he is fit he's probably a player we may select without too much rugby," added Gatland.

"You might make one allowance for a player of his quality and giving us depth in that position.

"Those are things we will discuss over the couple of months and just keep assessing the progress of someone like Leigh."

Halfpenny missed three of Wales' matches in this year's Six Nations due to ankle injury but returned to face Ireland and France.

Another Wales wing, Scarlets player Morgan Stoddart, will miss the Polish trip after suffering a thigh strain, while Shane Williams has still not returned to full training since injuring his knee in March.

Stoddart picked up the injury during training and will remain in Wales for treatment, but is expected to be available for the second camp, which takes place the week beginning 18 July.

"We made a decision not to take Morgan because we think he'll be better treated back here [in Wales]," added Gatland.

"The issue at the moment, if you look at the squad, that's where we probably have the biggest lack of depth in terms of the back three.

"We don't want to pick up too many injuries."