Leigh Halfpenny to miss Wales' opening two Six Nations games because of concussion

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Leigh Halfpenny will miss Wales’ opening two Six Nations matches as he continues his recovery from concussion.

Head coach Warren Gatland has insisted Wales will take no risks with full-back Halfpenny, who is in light training.

Gatland believes his 2019 Wales side boasts more depth than ever, and backed them to cope with any injury concerns.

“Leigh’s making progress, improving, he’s training,” said Gatland. “We’re just mindful that he’s still been a little symptomatic with a few headaches.

“For us it’s just easing him back in slowly. We probably won’t consider him for the first two games.

“Then hopefully he starts taking more of a part in training and we can look at potentially including him towards the end of the tournament.

Leigh Halfpenny

“It’s been tough, he’s found it difficult.

“Luckily enough he has had the distraction of his partner giving birth. And he’s been doing a lot of one-on-one work with Neil Jenkins, kicking – those are good distractions.

“There’s absolutely been no pressure from us in terms of trying to rush him back. The most important thing is his health and his safety.

“We’re just taking advice and moving things along. His well-being is the main thing.

“Gareth Davies has a bit of a quad strain and Scott Williams has had an ankle injury the last few weeks.

“I think the squad is incredibly exciting. This squad has probably more depth than we’ve ever had before.

“We’ve made a conscious effort in the last three seasons or since 2015, our focus has been on developing depth and competition.

“We’re in a good place in terms of competition in the squad and being able to cope a lot better than in the past in terms of picking up injuries – and mentally, we’re in a good place too.”

Concussion will keep Halfpenny out of Wales' first two games, but Ross Moriarty should be fine to start.

Concussion will keep Halfpenny out of Wales’ first two games, but Ross Moriarty should be fine to start.

Ross Moriarty is another Wales star who has been battling concussion, but Gatland is confident the Dragons flanker will be ready for the tournament opener, against France in Paris on February 1.

“He’s probably someone that – if I’m honest – I wouldn’t be worried about,” said Gatland, of Moriarty.

“The reason I’m saying that, I was surprised in the summer how little rugby he’d had, and he played all three matches.

“I didn’t think he’d be able to get through that but he got better and better as the matches went on.

“He’s still young, he’s raring to go, excited and says he’ll be alright.

“He’s a competitor, but it’s about us assessing him this week and seeing where he is. To make sure we do the due diligence on him so that we’re comfortable in terms of that selection.”

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Joe Schmidt not ruling out British & Irish Lions coaching role in 2021

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Joe Schmidt has left the door open to a coaching role with the British & Irish Lions in 2021.

Schmidt insisted he intends to take at least a 12-month break after stepping down from his role as Ireland head coach after the autumn’s World Cup.

The 53-year-old Kiwi is set on retiring from coaching after the global contest in Japan, but refused to rule out completely a return to top-level rugby at some point.

Asked if he would like to coach the Lions in 2021, Schmidt replied: “I wouldn’t be available if asked at the moment.

“I said to my wife that we’d get these 12 months done and she said ‘yeah, look, you’ll last 12 days, potentially, without needing to do something’.

Ireland v Scotland - NatWest Six Nations

“And I wouldn’t say that I’m looking to do any coaching so it’s not something that’s at the forefront of my mind.

“I think one of the things I decided in probably a conversation with myself, for want of a better word, is that whatever does happen after that, I want to make sure these next 10 months are as good as I can help the players be and put as much effort into that.

“And so I think that’s where your energies go. I’ve had an incredibly planned life for so many years.

“So I’m kind of looking forward to having 12 months where I can just invest that energy in one direction and also not have a daily itinerary or a weekly plan.”

Highly-decorated Ireland boss Schmidt could be well in the running for a future New Zealand coaching role should he seek another Test job.

Schmidt has guided Ireland from eighth to second in the world rankings in his five-year tenure, overseeing the nation’s first two victories over the back-to-back world champion All Blacks.

Warren Gatland has held informal talks with Lions bosses over a third stint coaching the famed touring side, in the 2021 South Africa trip.

Schmidt, meanwhile, currently views his immediate future after the World Cup as being focused on his family.

Between now and then, however, he admitted the privileges and pressures of Test match rugby continue to enthral.

Wales coach Warren Gatland is in line to lead the Lions for a third-straight tour.

Wales coach Warren Gatland is in line to lead the Lions for a third-straight tour.

“Sometimes I’m on the bus driving to the ground, on the way to the Aviva you go past this hotel just before you get to the ground,” said Schmidt.

“All these people are really enjoying themselves, and I’m on the bus thinking ‘I just hope it doesn’t go badly’.

“I almost feel like saying to the bus driver, ‘let me off so I can go and have a pint with these people’, and have as much fun as they do.

“But at the same time I’m incredibly privileged to have been as close to a group of men who work as hard as they do.

“It’s been an incredible privilege and I will miss that, I will miss the moments in the changing room seeing the players, and what they put in.”

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Ireland coach Joe Schmidt not open to British and Irish Lions job 'at this moment'

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Joe Schmidt has left the door open to a coaching role with the British and Irish Lions in 2021.

Schmidt insisted he intends to take at least a 12-month break after stepping down from his role as Ireland head coach after the autumn’s World Cup.

The 53-year-old Kiwi is set on retiring from coaching after the global contest in Japan, but refused to rule out completely a return to top-level rugby at some point.

Asked if he would like to coach the Lions in 2021, Schmidt replied: “I wouldn’t be available if asked at the moment.

“I said to my wife that we’d get these 12 months done and she said ‘yeah, look, you’ll last 12 days, potentially, without needing to do something’.

“And I wouldn’t say that I’m looking to do any coaching so it’s not something that’s at the forefront of my mind.

“I think one of the things I decided in probably a conversation with myself, for want of a better word, is that whatever does happen after that, I want to make sure these next 10 months are as good as I can help the players be and put as much effort into that.

“And so I think that’s where your energies go.

“I’ve had an incredibly planned life for so many years.

“So I’m kind of looking forward to having 12 months where I can just invest that energy in one direction and also not have a daily itinerary or a weekly plan.”

Highly-decorated Ireland boss Schmidt could be well in the running for a future New Zealand coaching role should he seek another Test job.

Schmidt has guided Ireland from eighth to second in the world rankings in his five-year tenure, overseeing the nation’s first two victories over the back-to-back world champion All Blacks.

Warren Gatland has held informal talks with Lions bosses over a third stint coaching the famed touring side, in the 2021 South Africa trip.
Schmidt meanwhile currently views his immediate future after the World Cup as focused on his family.

Between now and then however, he admitted the privileges and pressures of Test match rugby continue to enthrall.

“Sometimes I’m on the bus driving to the ground, on the way to the Aviva you go past this hotel just before you get to the ground,” said Schmidt.

“All these people are really enjoying themselves, and I’m on the bus thinking ‘I just hope it doesn’t go badly’.

“I almost feel like saying to the bus driver, ‘let me off so I can go and have a pint with these people’, and have as much fun as they do.

“But at the same time I’m incredibly privileged to have been as close to a group of men who work as hard as they do.

“It’s been an incredible privilege and I will miss that, I will miss the moments in the changing room seeing the players, and what they put in.”

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