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Halfpenny out to emulate idol Wilkinson

Wales full-back Leigh Halfpenny is ready to put the boot into France in this weekend's RBS 6 Nations Grand Slam clash and follow the example of goal-kicking hero Jonny Wilkinson.

Having taken the kicking duties off fly-half Rhys Priestland, he slotted the clinching last-gasp kick in the win over Ireland, before scoring 22 points in the victory over Scotland and preserving Wales' Triple Crown success with a heroic tackle on David Strettle during the game's thrilling denouement.

Wilkinson guided the Red Rose past Les Bleus in the 2003 and 2007 World Cup semi-finals, as well as kicking them to several Six Nations wins over the French, and Halfpenny said: "As a kicker the guy I always looked up to was Jonny Wilkinson, because he was the best and the most professional."

He added: "I bought his books and DVDs. The DVDs used to show his kicking technique and the books talked about how he would train on Christmas Day and not drink alcohol.

"There were parts of his kicking routine that I copied from him and some of it I have kept.

"I can remember when Cardiff Blues played Toulon in the Amlin Challenge Cup final and we were both warming up near each other, and I was wondering if he was looking at my technique thinking 'that's my routine'."

If Halfpenny does emerge on the winning side at the Millennium Stadium on Saturday, it will be in stark contrast to the emotions he and his team-mates felt the last time they met France in October's World Cup semi-final in Auckland.

Fourteen-man Wales, having lost captain Sam Warburton to a red card, lost 9-8 with Halfpenny's late penalty attempt from distance coming up just short.

The Gorseinon product admits that he endured some sleepless nights reflecting on what might have been, but insists the moment will not cross his mind come Saturday afternoon.

"There were not many nights when that kick did not go through my head," he said. "I would wonder if there was anything I could have done to get the ball over, I went through it every single day, but that has gone now. From that moment I said I would take my next chance and I did it against Ireland and I am just focusing on this weekend."


From Belfast Telegraph