The afternoon that Dan Carter learned that he would take no further part in the 2011 Rugby World Cup, the item led news bulletins on TV in New Zealand as insecurity spread like wildfire.
“Who do you think will play at No. 10?” a chambermaid in my hotel asked as she went about her business, quickening the more she contemplated what might go wrong for the All Blacks without Carter.
“Does Aaron Cruden have the experience? What about Stephen Donald or Colin Slade?”
So it was when you strolled down into reception to ask for a morning newspaper to be delivered to your room.
A five-minute wait ensued while the man behind the counter spoke urgently to a colleague about the options available to Graham Henry after Carter’s demise.
It would not have mattered if a room in the hotel had been on fire and a guest was rushing down to alert the staff about the need for a full-scale evacuation. It would have to be put on hold until the conversation about the superstar fly-half had been completed.
There was no sign of such panic in Wales after Gareth Anscombe’s injury at Twickenham on Sunday, but give it time. The news that he will take no part in the World Cup will prompt deep concern. Another such loss of a key player and curtains could be drawn in houses from Colwyn Bay to Carmarthen.
You feel for Anscombe.
Like all the others in the Welsh squad he worked ferociously hard during the summer training camps.
And he looked in good nick at Twickenham.
On a day when Wales crawled out of the blocks rather than blasted off them, the Ospreys’ new signing from Cardiff Blues caught the eye as he ran at England with pace and vision, on one occasion tearing their defence asunder.
It underlined the possibilities for Wales’ attacking game and what Anscombe can bring when he’s in the mood.
But now Warren Gatland has to think again for the World Cup.
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However it’s framed by those whose job it is to put a positive spin on such things, it’s a hefty blow. Anscombe is a leader who has the ability to open opposition defences. Before Sunday, Wales hadn’t lost with him at No. 10. They were developing their game with him and liked his passing and eye for a gap.
But the focus will have to change.
Gatland is fortunate that he has an experienced campaigner such as Dan Biggar to step onto the front line.
He has different qualities from Anscombe, but he played superbly off the bench during last term’s Six Nations and is a player a coach can depend on. At the risk of tempting fate, it is worth pointing out that it is rare for Biggar to pick up an injury. A useful man to have around, then, is the Northampton Saint.
Wales’ defeat to England
Wales’ World Cup preparations got off to a bad start with a 33-19 defeat against England at Twickenham. Here’s the best of our coverage of the fallout from the match.
* The big breaking news on Monday is that Gareth Anscombe is out of the Rugby World Cup. Full details here.
* There were one or two impressive performance but quite a few Wales players disappointed. Here’s how we rated each player out of 10.
* The UK media reaction has been a bit scathing in some quarters towards Wales. We’ve rounded everything up here.
* Wales were number one in the world for about 27 hours. This is how the World Rugby rankings looked when they were officially confirmed on Monday morning.
* The England v Wales winners and losers are here as one Welsh youngster put down a huge World Cup marker despite disappointing defeat.
Presumably, Gatland and Rob Howley will have already discussed what to do at fly-half in the event of there being an issue with Anscombe.
The first thing to consider is whether it’s now too much of a gamble to carry just two specialist 10s in the squad for Japan.
Wales might have felt confident about doing as much with Anscombe and Biggar at their disposal.
But being denied one of those has changed the picture.
It means if Wales decide to take just two fly-halves they could be a shade light of experienced back-up.
Might Gatland, then, opt to take both Rhys Patchell and Jarrod Evans as support for Biggar?
Let’s look at both players…
Rewind to the summer of 2018 and Patchell’s star was high in the sky.
OK, he had that misadventure against England at Twickenham four months earlier, but he recovered superbly to shine in Wales’ Tests against Argentina.
Two worrying head knocks last autumn did little for his confidence, though, and there were even suggestions he might have to take an extended break from the game should he hit any more trouble.
Thankfully, it didn’t come to that, and Patchell reasserted himself with a sparkling performance against Tonga in the November Test in Cardiff, coming off the bench to inspire a 33-point surge in 18 minutes.
But there have been concerns over his defence and the Scarlets played Hadleigh Parkes at fly-half against the Ospreys over Christmas, switching Patchell to full-back.
The question is whether the flame-haired one has sorted out the problems Wayne Pivac identified back then.
But his ability as an attacking force is not in doubt.
The Cardiff Blues player is a box of tricks, an old-style Welsh 10 with gifts that include a step, a jink and a lovely passing game.
He has also developed his work with the boot and produced one of the regional displays of the season with his performance against Glasgow Warriors at the Arms Park last February. There were kick-passes, shimmies, steps and pretty much every other crowd-pleasing skill you could imagine.
Evans has also improved his game-management.
Counting against him is his lack of Test experience.
But he is a player with a huge amount going for him.
This content was originally published here.