independent

Wednesday 16 April 2014

French giants keen on Halfpenny

Leigh Halfpenny is the latest Welsh player to join the Top 14

Lions hero Leigh Halfpenny could be the latest big name lured to France.

No sooner had the victorious Lions returned to a rapturous welcome home than the race to sign British rugby's hottest property began.

France's leading clubs are set to test the precarious economics in Welsh rugby with a move for the man of the series against Australia. Clermont Auvergne have earmarked Halfpenny (right) as a successor to Lee Byrne, while European champions Toulon and big-spending Racing Metro 92 are also lining up offers.

Racing will already boast an impressive crop of Lions next season having signed Halfpenny's Cardiff Blues team-mate Jamie Roberts, flanker Dan Lydiate and Ireland fly-half Jonathan Sexton, who will become the highest-paid player in France with a two-year contract understood to be worth £1.2m.

Such is the concern at Cardiff that chief executive Richard Holland flew to Australia to open talks with Halfpenny, as well as skipper Sam Warburton, who will both be free agents next summer.

"Whether Leigh will stay I don't know but he's a Welsh lad and we're hoping he will commit to the Blues. We have already had discussions and we will be working hard with Leigh to lock him into the Blues for the foreseeable future," said Holland, while Lions captain Warburton said of his team-mate: "I know the WRU and the regions are working very hard to keep players in Wales so hopefully that's the case with Leigh as he's a top-class player."

Reflecting on the series win, he said: "It's a great feeling. It has only been done a dozen times in 125 years so all the players know they are part of a very prestigious group and are very proud of that." (© Independent News Service)

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