Halfpenny eyes Lions kicking role
Wales star Leigh Halfpenny on Wednesday made a powerful early claim for the British and Irish Lions' Test match goalkicking job against Australia.
Halfpenny delivered a devastating display of accuracy against Western Force, booting nine conversions and two penalties - several out near the touchline - from 11 shots at goal. With two other proven world-class goalkickers also in the Lions squad - Jonathan Sexton and Owen Farrell - the contest for Test kicking duty promises to be a fascinating one.
"To be honest, the pressure is a real privilege," said full-back Halfpenny, this year's Six Nations player of the tournament. "I love every second of it. I always enjoyed goalkicking as a kid and I have tried to work hard at it. You watch the likes of Neil Jenkins, Jonny Wilkinson and Dan Carter and you want to be like that."
He added: "That's how I've always felt, and to have kicked for the Lions and to pull on that jersey is just a really special feeling."
Halfpenny never looked like missing, having been told by Jenkins - the Lions kicking coach - on Monday that he would have goalkicking responsibility against the Force and not Sexton, who also started the game.
"I am pretty pleased with how it went, but the work doesn't stop here now. As soon as I get back on the training pitch all the hard work starts again," he said.
"It is up there with the best I've kicked. I've had some games in which I've had a 100 per cent record, but not as many kicks as that. I got the easy bit. The boys scoring the tries and things are doing all the hard work.
"For me it's about taking each kick at a time and going through my process. You sort of get in a groove and sort of look at the ball and you can picture it in your head going over. That's what I felt. That comes from hard work on the practice pitch with Jenks.
"I can't think of a better guy to have teaching me and having alongside me in games and in training than him. He's a legend of the game.
"He was a world-class kicker and I'm really lucky to have Jenks around, helping with my goalkicking. He's brought me on hugely and I've worked with him since I was a kid growing up in the academy days."