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Leigh Halfpenny

Ever since Toulon confirmed they would not be offering Leigh Halfpenny a contract extension in June, speculation has been rife as to where the Wales full-back would ply his trade next, writes Dan Pearce. Over the course of the calendar year he has either been offered terms by or been linked with Wasps, Cardiff Blues, Bath and Leicester with the back proving that he is still a sort after commodity.

 

  Finally, it appears his future has been decided with Halfpenny set to join the Scarlets, as he prepares to return to Wales after a three-year stay in France. There has been some debate over whether Halfpenny will be a value for money signing for the Welsh region, so I have taken a look at the pros and cons of his impending move to Parc-Y-Scarlets.

 

Pros

 

There's no question that Leigh Halfpenny is a high quality player. He has won trophies with the Cardiff Blues, Toulon and Wales and is arguably the premier goal-kicker in world rugby. He is also widely regarded as one of the best defensive full-backs in the world thanks to his positional play, tackling ability and solidity under the high ball.

 

  He has big game experience having played in Lions tests, Six Nations deciders and European Cup finals, so could play a key role for the Scarlets during future crunch matches both domestically and in Europe.

 

  Off the field the Halfpenny could also make a significant impact. His exploits with Wales and the Lions have earned him a fan club all of his own, which gives an indication of his wider appeal. His marketability could attract new sponsors to the club and new fans through the turnstiles which in turn could help the club claw back some of the money paid out to bring the player to West Wales.

 

Cons

 

It is probably fair to say that, relatively speaking, Halfpenny's stock has fallen since his player of the series performances for the Lions against Australia in 2013. This may be due to changes in how full-backs are increasingly expected to combine their defensive duties with a more attacking role, with Halfpenny's strengths, for much of his career, having been as a defensive full-back rather than a devastating counter-attacker.

 

  Despite attracting plenty of interest from clubs following his Toulon exit, there has been a growing school of thought that his attacking game has regressed in recent years, which may well have been a factor in his peripheral role during the test series of the recent Lions tour to New Zealand. However, he will want to prove the doubters wrong and fit into a Scarlets side that played some wonderful attacking rugby last season.

 

  As with many international players these days, their club appearances are curtailed by their national duties. Halfpenny's commitments with Wales mean that he could potentially play in no more than 16 games a season, although in reality it may well be less than that, especially in a season following a Lions tour.

 

 

 

Make no bones about it, the Scarlets will be getting a player with the ability to play at the highest level of the sport. He may not be at his absolute peak right now, but he's not far off, and given what he can provide off the field, it's an opportunity not to be spurned.

 

  It certainly makes sense for the former Cardiff Blues man to join Wayne Pivac's side. With Liam Williams exiting the club over the summer, he is a ready made replacement, despite their very different playing styles. Also, with the West Wales side being the reigning league champions and playing in the Champions Cup, the player will have the opportunity to play for and undoubtedly improve the best side in Wales right now.

 

  Simple put, bringing one of the nation's best players back to Wales represents a triumph for the regional game and the Welsh Rugby Union.