By Sarah Mockford, Rugby World Features Editor
THE 2012 RBS 6 Nations has proved an eventful tournament for Wales’ Leigh Halfpenny. The 23-year-old played a pivotal role in Wales’ two away wins in Dublin and at Twickenham , which resulted in Warren Gatland’s side lifting the Triple Crown. Here full-back Halfpenny talks about those two defining moments…
THAT LATE WINNING KICKING AGAINST IRELAND
My heart was beating so fast, pumping through my chest. It was quite a nerve-racking moment, but I took a couple of deep breaths and treated it like any other kick. That’s the best way I find to compose myself: to put myself at my local club in Gorseinon practising, just me, the ball and a set of posts. That’s when I feel most relaxed, so I try to picture that in my mind as much as possible and go through the same process I do for every kick. After the game a couple of fans said, ‘I can’t believe the Ireland fans were booing’, but I didn’t even notice that.
I knew as soon as it came off my boot that it was good and it was a huge relief. After the France kick (he missed a long-range penalty attempt in the World Cup semi-final), I blamed myself for us not getting to the final. There’s no doubt that it knocked me quite a lot and every single day I went through it again – what if I’d caught it that bit sweeter or anything that made it go further? That’s how hard I am on myself. I’ve been kicking as much as I could since and the next time I got opportunity I wanted to nail it. I did that against Ireland and it was best feeling ever. It made all the hard work I’ve put in since the semi-final worthwhile.
THAT LAST-MINUTE TACKLE ON DAVID STRETTLE
I remember being in the middle of the pitch on the ball and then Toby Flood flung the ball over the top and I thought I’ve got to get over there, so I got on my bike and sprinted as fast as I could. Mike Brown passed early to David Strettle and I wasn’t sure how he’d run in, but he shaped up to run straight into me. It felt like big collision, both of us had a big run-up, and I put everything I could behind it to try to stop him, to slow him down.
I don’t really remember much after that (he was concussed from the tackle). To be fair to Jonathan Davies and George North, they did fantastically well to hold him up and they deserve a lot of credit for that – they stopped the try.
To win the Triple Crown in Twickenham was unbelievable. It’s not an easy place to go and win, and to lift the Triple Crown there for the first time in history was just an amazing day. We all felt the disappointment of the World Cup, but we’ve worked extremely hard since then and that was a great reward for all the boys.