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Toulon full-back Leigh Halfpenny hails Saracens fly-half Owen Farrell

Published 14/10/2016

Leigh Halfpenny has lavished praise on England star Owen Farrell ahead of Saturday's European Champions Cup clash between Toulon and Saracens
Leigh Halfpenny has lavished praise on England star Owen Farrell ahead of Saturday's European Champions Cup clash between Toulon and Saracens

Leigh Halfpenny has described England star Owen Farrell as "a fantastic goalkicker and a fantastic player" ahead of Saturday's potential points shoot-out between the pair in Toulon.

A mouthwatering European Champions Cup Pool Three opener sees Halfpenny and Toulon taking on Saracens at Stade Felix-Mayol, where Farrell will make a first appearance of the season after recovering from back and hip trouble.

It is likely to be a tense, tight affair possibly decided by the boot of Halfpenny or Farrell, with three-time European champions Toulon and title holders Saracens both seeking winning starts.

"I am really good mates with Owen," Wales full-back Halfpenny said. "We made a great friendship on the Lions tour in Australia three years ago, and we keep in touch.

"I watched him last season and I thought he was outstanding. His all-round game, his goalkicking - to be honest, I can't remember when he last missed - is outstanding.

"Looking ahead to this weekend, we are going to have to be at our best against him. We are going to have to be hugely disciplined.

"In Europe, games are so competitive, and you know going into a game that it can be won by a small margin and it can come down to one kick.

"As a kicker, it's why you put the hours of work in for those pressure moments. I see the pressure as a privilege.

"It's going to be a huge challenge, and I look forward to it because Owen is a fantastic goalkicker and a fantastic player, so it will be great to share the same field as him again and hopefully catch up with him after the match as well."

Halfpenny has enjoyed an unbroken run of games this season after a nine-month injury absence last term when ruptured knee ligaments sidelined him for Wales' World Cup and Six Nations campaigns, in addition to Toulon's entire fixture calendar, apart from the Top 14 semi-finals and final in June.

Wales' interim head coach Rob Howley will name his squad for the autumn Tests next Tuesday, with Halfpenny expected to be included for a November programme that features appointments with Australia, Argentina, Japan and South Africa.

Liam Williams, though, shone on Wales' three-Test summer tour of New Zealand, and it is widely expected that he will retain the number 15 shirt against Australia on November 5, with Halfpenny a likely wing option alongside George North.

"Playing in Europe, you are testing yourself against the best guys in Europe and seeing where you are at," Halfpenny added.

"You try to put in the best performances you can to hopefully push for selection for the autumn, and if I was to be selected for the autumn, it would be a huge honour.

"Since picking up the injury and watching the (Wales) boys play and how well they've played, I've been immensely proud of them and how they have gone about their business. I've missed it, so to be selected would mean everything.

"There is a lot of competition for the back-three places. Liam is a great friend of mine, and I have been really pleased to see him play so well. He was outstanding on the New Zealand tour, and it's great to be having that competition.

"When you have that competition, it improves everyone because everyone is working hard to improve their game and push for selection."

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