Leigh Halfpenny 'can emulate' Jonny Wilkinson - Toulon's Laporte

Leigh Halfpenn
Leigh Halfpenny was man-of-the-tournament as Wales won the Six Nations in 2013
European Rugby Champions Cup: Toulon v Scarlets
Venue: Stade Mayol, Toulon Date: Sunday, 19 October Kick-off: 15:15 BST
Coverage: Live commentary on BBC Radio Wales AM, Radio Cymru & online

Toulon coach Bernard Laporte says Wales full-back Leigh Halfpenny can be the French side's new Jonny Wilkinson.

Halfpenny, 25, was seen as a natural place-kicking successor for Wilkinson, following the ex-England fly-half's retirement as the 2013-14 season ended.

The 25-year-old made his long-awaited Toulon debut at Toulouse and faces Scarlets in Europe on Sunday.

Asked if he could be the next Wilkinson, Laporte said: "Yes, he's like Jonny - very professional."

"He's trained a lot and trained with Jonny also," said Laporte.

World Cup winner Wilkinson is now a member of Toulon's coaching staff after a five-year playing spell in which he won a Top 14 title and the Heineken Cup twice.

Halfpenny, named man of the series after the victorious British and Irish Lions tour to Australia in 2013, joined Toulon on a two-year deal from Cardiff Blues in the summer.

Before last Sunday's defeat against Toulouse, Halfpenny had not played since injuring a shoulder in Wales' 29-18 Six Nations defeat by England in March.

Jonny Wilkinson and Bernad Laporte
Jonny Wilkinson captained a Toulon side coached by Bernard Laporte to Heineken Cup and Top 14 success last season

Surgery on the shoulder was followed by a groin injury which delayed his debut and led to Toulon president Mourad Boudjellal threatening to cancel the player's contract.

But that issue was resolved following talks in September and former France coach Laporte says the Welshman is an important member of his squad.

"It was difficult for him because when he arrived he immediately had an injury and hadn't played since March - a lot of months without competition," Laporte said.

"He is a very good goal kicker and we need him."

Halfpenny told BBC's Sport Wales he is happy at Toulon and has set his sights on winning "everything" with the European champions.

He is in line to play against the Scarlets on Sunday in European rugby's new top club competition, a tournament Halfpenny's new club are targeting.

"The success that they've achieved in last couple of years, that was something that attracted me," said Halfpenny.

"They want to win everything and that really motivated me and excited me coming here."

Top Stories