Leigh Halfpenny makes long-delayed Toulon debut

Leigh Halfpenny battles for the ball with Toulouse scrum-half Jean-Marc Doussain during his Toulon debut
Leigh Halfpenny battles for the ball with Toulouse scrum-half Jean-Marc Doussain during his Toulon debut

Leigh Halfpenny made his Toulon debut at Toulouse on Sunday after starting at full-back in the French Top 14 match.

The 25-year-old had not played since injuring a shoulder in Wales' 29-18 defeat by England in March - two months after he announced he was moving to France from Cardiff Blues.

Surgery on the shoulder was followed by a groin injury which delayed his debut.

That led to Toulon president Mourad Boudjellal threatening to cancel the player's contract.

The 2013 British and Irish Lions tourist to Australia said prior to the game: "I've done a lot of physical work with the medical staff to get it [groin] right and we've got to a point where I'm ready to play.

"I've arrived at the end of the tunnel as I always wanted to... I'm very excited about it.

"Every time you take the field you're under pressure to perform.

Leigh Halfpenny
BornGorseinon, Swansea, 22 December 1988
Height1.78m (5ft 10in)
Weight85kg (13st 5lb)
PositionFull-back, wing
ClubsCardiff Blues, Toulon
International honours52 Wales caps (395 pts), three Lions caps (49 pts)

"It's part of being a professional rugby player especially in a team like Toulon, but I see it more as a privilege.

"I'm privileged and excited to be part of this team and to have the chance to put the jersey on."

Halfpenny was seen as a natural place-kicking successor to Jonny Wilkinson following the former England fly-half's retirement at the end of the 2013-14 season.

The Welshman was man-of-the-tournament as Wales won the Six Nations Championship in 2013, and man-of-the-series for the British and Irish Lions on their triumphant tour of Australia the same year.

He scored a record 49 points was the Lions beat the Wallabies 2-1 in the three match series.

And Halfpenny has notched 395 points in 52 matches for Wales since making his debut in 2008 as a winger, though he did not take over as their main goal-kicker until the 2012 Six Nations.

However, his delayed debut at Toulon upset Boudjellal.

Boudjellal told French newspaper Varmartin at the time that he felt Halfpenny might have been carrying the groin injury when he arrived at Toulon.

The Toulon president had said: "We haven't excluded denouncing his contract."

That put Halfpenny's former side Cardiff Blues and their regional rivals Ospreys on alert that the 2013 British and Irish Lions player of the series might become available.

But that issue was resolved following talks in September.