Belfast Telegraph

Thursday 18 September 2014

Halfpenny eager to seize chance

Leigh Halfpenny is determined to experience a more succesful Lions tour

Leigh Halfpenny could be excused if he felt in a hurry to make up for lost time on next month's British and Irish Lions tour.

It will be 24-year-old Halfpenny's second Lions tour, but he can only hope for better fortune than on the previous one in South Africa. Selected for the 2009 mission to Springbok country, Halfpenny was allowed to join it late while he continued his recovery from a thigh problem. But after one appearance an injury recurrence ended his tour before it had barely started.

"It was hugely disappointing," said Halfpenny, after reporting for Lions duty this week. "I was part of a Lions squad and having the time of my life playing with a hugely-talented group, and I was gutted to be leaving."

He added: "I was 20 years of age away with the Lions, and I would have stayed on that training pitch every hour of the day, but I learnt that I should listen to my body.

"I am a lot more experienced now, and I think the more chances I've had to play the more I've learnt and had time to work on areas I have wanted to be better at. For me, it is just about working hard every single day and making the most out of every time I step on the training pitch.

"What is hugely important as a Lions squad is to get things right off the pitch to make sure we are successful on the pitch. It is about getting to know each other and all coming together as one."

Halfpenny is currently on familiar territory, preparing with his Lions colleagues at Wales' Vale of Glamorgan training base.

And if any of the Lions squad need reminding of how tough an opponent Australia will be, then Halfpenny can oblige, having lost four out of four against them during the past 11 months.

Wales lost a Test series 3-0 Down Under last summer, albeit by a combined total of 11 points, then the Wallabies triumphed at the Millennium Stadium earlier this season, scoring their winning try while Halfpenny was receiving medical attention for a neck injury that required an overnight hospital stay.

"Obviously, we were hugely disappointed to come away with a 3-0 series loss," he added. "There is probably frustration there, but we also have to take confidence from it. Now, it is about making sure we cross that finish line and being able to win the games."

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