By Sarah Mockford
LEIGH HALFPENNY is looking at the picture of himself embracing Jonathan Davies and Jamie Roberts in the pages of Rugby World and is taken back to Saturday 6 July; he says that it reminds him of the feeling of winning a Test series in Australia with the Lions.
There are many moments from that night in Sydney that have stuck with Halfpenny. He slotted a record 21 points in that final Test and played a part in two of the Lions’ four tries against Australia. He was named Man of the Match and was also awarded the Man of the Series gong after impressive displays throughout the tour Down Under and consistently world-class goal-kicking. It is the group celebrations rather than the personal achievements that stand out for Halfpenny, however.
“It’s a huge honour to receive those awards,” says the 24-year-old full-back. “The best moment of the tour for me, though, was when the final whistle went in the third Test so we knew we’d won the series and celebrating not just with the players on the pitch but those players not involved. They all ran onto the pitch and you could see how much it meant to them as well; it was great to celebrate with the whole squad.”
Halfpenny also had the chance to celebrate with his close friends from Gorseinon. Seven of his mates had come over for the last two Tests and the Melbourne Rebels match and once he had finished celebrating the series with his team-mates, Halfpenny scoured the Sydney crowd for the Gorseinon crew.
“I knew they’d be in the stadium somewhere so I spent a bit of time looking around trying to find them and spotted a Welsh flag with Gorseinon on it. I went over to them and it was a really nice moment being with my really close mates from back home straight after the game. We got a picture that we’ll be able to look at forever.”
His family were present at ANZ Stadium to witness the third-Test triumph, too. His dad and uncle were in Australia for all three Tests, while his mum, sister and aunt came out for the final clash with the Wallabies. “They flew on the Wednesday, got there on the Friday, watched the game on Saturday and flew back early on Sunday,” explains Halfpenny of their ‘weekend’ away. “I got to see them the night before the game, which was great. It was a huge lift.”
Now Halfpenny’s thoughts are firmly on Cardiff Blues, who kick off their season at Glasgow on Friday 6 September. As well as the RaboDirect Pro12 campaign, Cardiff have been drawn in a Heineken Cup pool with Exeter, Glasgow and Toulon – although they will be more pink than blue given their new European strip. Halfpenny’s team-mate Josh Navidi got covered in body paint to launch the kit – here’s the video…
Read more of Leigh Halfpenny’s exclusive interview in the October issue of Rugby World – on sale Tuesday 3 September.