herald

Thursday 8 December 2016

Halfpenny return gives Blues one more headache

Leigh Halfpenny has made a near miraculous recovery from a dislocated shoulder to take his place in Toulon's all-star cast of characters.

The Welsh full-back's name on any team-sheet is enough to cause an immediate improvement in discipline even before a ball is kicked.

While Halfpenny (left) has built a career on the back of his bravery and goal-kicking, there have been few club honours to put alongside those registered with Wales and the 2013 British & Irish Lions.

Dead-eye Leigh aims to change all of that at Toulon.

"His stats speak for themselves. He's a phenomenal place-kicker," reviewed Leinster's Luke Fitzgerald.

"I actually thought he was brilliant against Ireland this year.

"Some of the back field cover, even the diving catch against Johnny Sexton to the corner.

"That was a beauty of a kick. I had a great view of it, he dove - it was Schmeichelesque - to mark that. It was incredible. Obviously, he's a quality player."

The closest Halfpenny came to making a breakthrough in the European Cup was for his Cardiff Blues in the 2009 semi-final, later won by Leinster.

It was the day Leicester Tigers number eight Jordan Crane stepped up as the most unlikely of heroes in a penalty shoot-out.

"We lost on penalties and I hope that the outcome will be different on Sunday. It was a great disappointment," said Halfpenny.

"I have the opportunity to play another. It'll be a huge game against a team packed with quality. It will be complicated and we need to be 100% ready.

"This is one of the biggest matches of my career and it's also a great match for Toulon.

With the success the club has had over the past two years, we do not want to stop there," he said.

toulon v leinster, tomorrow, live sky sports 2 (ko 3.15)

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