Belfast Telegraph

Friday 1 August 2014

Halfpenny keen to star for Lions

Leigh Halfpenny is hungry for success down under this summer after enduring a frustrating tour four years ago in South Africa

Leigh Halfpenny is determined to make his mark for the Lions in Australia, and erase the memory of the injury woes which blighted his tour of South Africa four years ago.

Four years ago Halfpenny was seen as something of a surprise inclusion in Sir Ian McGeechan's squad, despite an eye-catching first season as a professional. But his first Lions experience would prove to be one full of frustration.

"Going to South Africa was totally unexpected. If somebody had told me at the beginning of the season that I would be on the tour I wouldn't have believed them," he said.

"It was a great experience and something I learnt massively from. I enjoyed my time but I was gutted to have to leave. This time round I have a lot of experience at international level and I'm looking to do the best I can for the Lions. I'm sure this Lions squad will be successful Down Under.

"Having experienced it and seen how special it is only makes me hungrier. I've done everything possible to go on this tour. A lot of hard work has gone in all year and to hear my name called out first was a huge relief. It was pretty emotional as well."

Taking on the Wallabies will also have particular resonance for Halfpenny, whose first memories of watching the world's most famous touring side was on their last visit Down Under in 2001.

And he believes Australia's resilience in fighting back from losing the first Test to take a 2-1 series win, shows what the Lions can expect this summer.

"My first real Lions experience was watching the 2001 tour of Australia," said Halfpenny.

"There are so many great memories of that tour. There was Jason Robinson going around Chris Latham within two or three yards for the first try in the first Test, and the passion he showed and how the stadium erupted.

"There was also Brian O'Driscoll going through a gap that wasn't even there for his try. But that tour showed the Aussies are a quality outfit and they will be a tough team to beat again. It will be a difficult series but we can be confident."

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