Sport Rugby

Tuesday 20 February 2018

Halfpenny happy to stick to Wales

Andrew Baldock

LEIGH Halfpenny could probably name his price on current form if he was for sale in rugby union's transfer market.

This season's RBS 6 Nations player of the championship, Halfpenny will see his stock rise even further in three months' time if, as expected, he becomes the British and Irish Lions' Test full-back against Australia.


Wealthy French clubs, in particular, would fall over themselves if a mad scramble for Halfpenny's services ever ensued.


But at this stage in his burgeoning career, he is going nowhere, committed to Cardiff Blues until at least next year and enjoying Welsh rugby's feelgood factor enhanced by a second successive Six Nations title success.


Wales' player exodus has shown no sign of abating in recent months. The likes of Mike Phillips, James Hook, Gethin Jenkins, Lee Byrne and Luke Charteris currently ply their trade in France, although Jenkins will rejoin Halfpenny at the Blues next season, while Jamie Roberts and Dan Lydiate are poised to join Paris-based Racing Metro this summer.


And juggernaut wing George North is the subject of intense speculation linking him with a lucrative move from the Scarlets to Aviva Premiership club Northampton.


"For me, as far as I am concerned, I am contracted to the Blues for this year and next year," said Halfpenny, who, at the age of 24 has already won 44 Wales caps and amassed almost 300 Test points.


"I love playing rugby in Wales. It's fantastic. It's where I am from, it's my home, and as far as I am concerned I am happy playing my rugby in Wales.


"It is hugely important that we keep our players in Wales and keep our youngsters here. It's hugely important for Welsh rugby as a whole that we do so."


Halfpenny's Wales colleagues Alex Cuthbert and Dan Biggar have both recently committed their immediate playing futures at the Blues and Ospreys, respectively, but retaining top players remains an ongoing battle for the four Welsh professional regions.


Halfpenny, meanwhile, returns to the Millennium Stadium on Saturday for 'Judgement Day', when the Blues will tackle the Ospreys in part two of a RaboDirect PRO12 double-header that also sees Newport Gwent Dragons and the Scarlets in action.


It comes just a fortnight after Wales destroyed England in record-breaking fashion, the final game of a title-winning Six Nations campaign that ended with Halfpenny being voted as the tournament's top performer.


"I've been really overwhelmed by it all," he added.


"But for me it's not about the award. I am obviously really honoured and privileged to have received it, but for me it was about lifting the trophy again with the boys.


"That was just incredible. To lift it for the second year running was just an amazing feeling, and to have done it in front of our home fans at the Millennium Stadium in the manner that we did was incredible.


"I am hugely honoured and privileged to have received that award, which has been received by so many fantastic players in the past.


"The first thing I did was to look at the names on there, legends of the game. To be in among names like that is just mad. It's just what dreams are made of to be even mentioned in the same breath as names that are on the trophy.


"The international boys are looking forward to being back at the stadium, where we've got some great recent memories.


"It's going to be a bit strange, because you've been team-mates for the last two months and then you are hitting lumps out of each other the next week.


"I am sure there will be a lot of banter out there with the boys. It's a new challenge, and one that is going to be great for everyone involved.


"It's a great occasion, all four regions playing in the Millennium Stadium on one day, and I believe one that will show the quality that there is playing in the Welsh regions."

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