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Wales target title hat-trick

Leigh Halfpenny believes there is "a great feeling" in the Wales squad ahead of this season's RBS 6 Nations title defence.

Wales begin their campaign against Millennium Stadium visitors Italy later today, when a seventh successive victory in the fixture would see them off and running in pursuit of an unprecedented Six Nations title hat-trick.

Italy last toppled Wales in 2007, and while they can boast a pack containing three Test cap centurions - Sergio Parisse, Martin Castrogiovanni and Marco Bortolami - an injury-hit back division could be found wanting.

Wales full-back Halfpenny has regularly commanded headlines during the past 12 months.

He was named 2013 Six Nations player of the tournament, British and Irish Lions man of the series, finished as BBC Sports Personality of the Year runner-up, won BBC Wales Sports Personality of the Year and the Rugby Writers' Club player of the year.

He also recently agreed a lucrative deal to join Heineken Cup holders Toulon next season, but a successful Six Nations campaign currently tops his agenda.

"I have an important Six Nations, and I am completely focused on that," he said.

"I am just trying to keep working hard and see where I can improve myself as a player. I'm looking for little details here and there, doing my extras after training.

"I want to do the best I can for the team, and that starts on Saturday against a good Italy team.

"We're coming off the back of an autumn series which was better than the previous year, and there is a great feeling in the squad.

"For us it is a case of knowing what we have to do to be successful and having that belief and determination. We set ourselves very high standards, and we work very hard. It is about trying to make the most of every day."

Halfpenny is closing in on 50 caps and 350 points for Wales, which marks him out as potentially a major influence on Wales' bid for more silverware.

Wales backs coach Rob Howley said: "His performances over the last 12 months have been absolutely outstanding.

"His diligence, intelligence and how he works are significant indicators as to where he is now.

"He wants to continue in that vein, and I am sure he will, because he is young and hugely talented."

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