Leigh Halfpenny: Wales full-back will stay in Toulon, says Lee Byrne

Bryan Habana, Leigh Halfpenny and Matt Giteau celebrate Toulon's 2015 Champions Cup win
Leigh Halfpenny (centre) is part of a team of world-class players at Toulon

Leigh Halfpenny will stay in France with Toulon rather than return to join a Welsh region, according to former Wales full-back Lee Byrne.

Halfpenny, 27, has an option for another year in France when his deal runs out at the end of the season.

Wasps director of rugby Dai Young says the Wales full-back has turned down on offer to join them, but Cardiff Blues and Scarlets remain hopeful.

"It's a no brainer for him to stay in Toulon," said Byrne.

"He wasn't in a team photo a few weeks ago so people thought he was going to leave Toulon but it looks like he's maybe had a change of heart.

"People have linked him to the Scarlets but they've got Liam Williams there so that probably wouldn't be the right move either."

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Young's comments are the clearest indication yet that Halfpenny, who could miss the whole season after having knee ligament surgery in September, feels his immediate future remains in France.

Returning to Wales would benefit national coach Warren Gatland given the limitations imposed on him on the number of foreign-based players he can select in the squad.

But Byrne, who did not play for Wales again after moving to Clermont Auvergne in 2011, believes Halfpenny's importance to the team as one of the world's best place-kickers means his place is safe irrespective of the so-called Gatland's Law.

"It would be great if Leigh came back to Wales but I think his international career is fine if he stays in Toulon," said Byrne, who helped Wales win the 2008 Grand Slam and scored 10-tries in a 46-cap career.

"I'm sure he's had a conversation with the coaches - he's a massive weapon for Wales in terms of his kicking."

Byrne also believes Halfpenny will improve as a player by playing alongside a host of world-class players, including New Zealand great Ma'a Nonu, who joined Toulon after winning the 2015 World Cup.

"The vast majority of the players who leave New Zealand or Australia end up in the Top 14," he said. "Playing with someone like Ma'a Nonu is going to bring his game on.

"So there's not a big rush for him to come back. He's winning trophies, he's playing in front of sell-out crowds week-in-week-out and he's being paid a very good salary."

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