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Halfpenny warns of Brown threat


Leigh Halfpenny is fit to play for Toulon

Leigh Halfpenny is fit to play for Toulon

Leigh Halfpenny is fit to play for Toulon

Leigh Halfpenny readily accepts that England full-back Mike Brown has the ability to "hurt" Wales in Sunday's RBS 6 Nations showdown.

Brown has made telling contributions in all three of England's Six Nations games this season, scoring tries against France and Scotland while providing a brilliant assist for Danny Care's blistering touchdown that helped account for Ireland nine days ago.

Opposite him in the Wales number 15 shirt at Twickenham, though, will be a player who raised the bar last year as Europe's premier full-back.

Halfpenny's sustained excellence resulted in considerable recogniton. He was player of the series when the British and Irish Lions beat Australia, 2013 Six Nations player of the tournament, BBC Sports Personality of the Year runner-up and BBC Wales Sports Personality of the Year, to name just four of the accolades bestowed on him.

"I couldn't ever have dreamt of a year like it," he said. "I am trying to maintain those standards that I set myself.

"As a player, you are always putting pressure on yourself to be the best player you can be. Ultimately, you are trying to do a job for your team and for the team to be successful."

The 25-year-old's modest and unassuming nature meant there was never the remotest possibility that any of it would go to his head, and he adopts a similarly gracious approach to assessing opposition players.

"He is a great player," said Halfpenny when asked for his verdict on Brown. "He has been playing very well for a good period of time now.

"He has got a good attacking game, he's quick, he's agile, he is a player that can create something and one that we are going to have to watch.

"If you kick loosely to him, he could hurt you, so that is not something we want to be doing."

Halfpenny has a 75 per cent success-rate from four Six Nations appearances against England. He kicked 14 points when Wales won the Triple Crown at Twickenham two years ago, and booted four penalties in last season's title-clinching record 30-3 win that destroyed English Grand Slam hopes.

And while Brown's blistering form makes him a potential headline act in the 125th meeting between England and Wales, Halfpenny could conceivably end up topping the bill.

But if Wales deliver a third win in four Six Nations visits to Twickenham during Warren Gatland's coaching reign, Halfpenny will hope for an instant memory of the moment - unlike two years ago.

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On that occasion, his heroic last-ditch tackle on England wing David Strettle in the dying seconds helped preserve Wales' 19-12 advantage and meant Triple Crown celebrations could begin, although Halfpenny was still feeling the effects of stopping Strettle.

"I have seen the tackle played back a couple of times," Halfpenny said.

"I just tried to get my whole body behind it to try and stop him because he was coming at such a pace. I managed to get my head caught in the middle and caught his knee. I think it was fantastic work from Jon Davies and George North as well to hold him up and stop him scoring.

"I didn't really remember too much of the game when I walked off until I had a chance to watch it again.

"I had to go in for a medical assessment in the changing room, just as the guys were about to lift the Triple Crown, which I didn't realise."

Halfpenny is likely to be among 11 starting XV survivors from Wales' demolition job on England a year ago, and he said: "They (England) are going to be hurting from the last game.

"They are going to come out and want to really bring it to us. That is something we are going to have to be prepared for.

"We are just focusing on ourselves and doing what we have got to do, with our preparation and homework on England.

"We are going to Twickenham as Six Nations champions and we are looking to defend our title. It's going to be a huge game and one that we are hugely excited about."

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