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Halfpenny honoured by nomination

Wales star Leigh Halfpenny has described his nomination for BBC Sports Personality of the Year as "a huge privilege".

Halfpenny is among 10 contenders for this year's prestigious title, rubbing shoulders with the likes of Andy Murray, Mo Farah, Sir Ben Ainslie, Tony McCoy and Christine Ohuruogu.

It follows a remarkable period in the 24-year-old's rugby career.

He helped Wales win their second successive RBS 6 Nations title last season and was named player of the tournament, then he shone for the British and Irish Lions during their Test series triumph against Australia and took player of the series honours.

Halfpenny has also been honoured at French publication Midi Olympique's so-called rugby oscars, while he is among nominations for International Rugby Board world player of the Year.

"When I found out I had been nominated (for Sports Personality) it was a great honour to be alongside those other names who had been nominated," he said.

"It is a huge privilege. The people who have been nominated are all fantastic sportsmen and women.

"I wouldn't have been able to be nominated without my team-mates and my coaches who I have worked with throughout the years - from both club and country - and my family and friends.

"Their support has been fantastic. I wouldn't have been nominated without them, so it's a huge 'thank you' to them."

Top of Halfpenny's immediate sporting agenda is achieving a rare victory in the professional era for Wales over Australia.

It has not happened since 2008 when a Wales team captained by Ryan Jones prevailed 21-18 at the Millennium Stadium.

Wales have suffered eight successive losses at the Wallabies' hands since then, with half of those defeats being by three points or less.

"We have been close many times now, one or two points in it," full-back Halfpenny added.

"It has been very frustrating at times when we've come off and felt like we played the better rugby but it didn't quite win the game. Now we have to go to that next level by beating the southern hemisphere teams like Australia."

Halfpenny started all three Tests Down Under in 2012 when Wales suffered a 3-0 series defeat by a combined total of just 11 points.

"It was devastating," he said. "After the second and third Tests we came off the pitch feeling like we should have won, with the rugby we had played, but we couldn't quite see the games out.

"Then last year at home we lost in the dying minutes, the last play of the game."

Halfpenny, though, saw little of Kurtley Beale's winning try for Australia, having been injured in the build-up. He was carried off and detained overnight in hospital after complaining of neck pain.

But all his thoughts now are on toppling Australia, repeating for Wales what he has already done with the Lions.

"We are putting on the Welsh jersey and with that comes a lot of emotion, like in every game," he added.

"You are doing what you love to do, and every time you put on that Welsh jersey it is an incredible feeling and you want to do it justice. You want to bring out that emotion and performance.

"When you are playing with your team-mates, it's the boys you train with day-in, day-out and you are all working hard to get a victory.

"Whether it's with Wales or the Lions, both are just as satisfying when you win an international match. It is an amazing feeling, and a lot of us experienced beating Australia in the summer.

"A win on Saturday would feel just as amazing as that did. It's your country and every time you win in that Welsh jersey it is an incredible feeling."


From Belfast Telegraph