Halfpenny delighted with triumphant return

2016-06-20 17:13
Leigh Halfpenny (File)

Toulon - British and Irish Lions star Leigh Halfpenny is delighted at his triumphant return to action after a debilitating knee injury that saw him miss the Rugby World Cup.

The 27-year-old Welshman sustained the injury in a pre-World Cup warm-up game against Italy in September and has spent the last eight months on the sidelines.

But Halfpenny marked his first club match of the season by contributing 17 points in Toulon's 27-18 victory over Montpellier in Saturday's semi-final to set up a mouth-watering Top 14 final against Dan Carter's Racing 92 in Barcelona on Friday.

"It's been a long journey coming back from injury, but it's been helped by the medical staff here who have worked very hard to get me back from injury, and also the players and management have been fantastic in supporting me in overcoming the injury," Halfpenny said.

"There have been challenges along the way, having to have the second operation on the cartilage, but I managed to overcome that and the knee's feeling good now.

"I was just absolutely delighted to be back out on the field playing with the boys on Saturday.

"The players here were fantastic in helping me get back to playing and getting up to speed on the calls and how we want to play."

Halfpenny said he had been "excited to be back" and had tried to enjoy every minute of the game, but warned that there was more to come.

The victory over Montpellier "was a big game for this club and a fantastic achievement that we've made the final, but that's not it for us, we want to go on and win the trophy, the Bouclier Brennus", the full-back said.

Capped 59 times by Wales and three times by the Lions on the victorious Australia tour in 2013, Halfpenny's start at Toulon was also blighted by injury but he rebounded to score 14 points as the Mediterranean club beat Clermont in the 2015 European Cup to claim a record third successive continental crown.

Toulon this season were edged 19-16 by Racing in the European Cup quarter-finals, Halfpenny acknowledging the strength of the Parisian side driven by goal-kicking All Black legend Carter at fly-half.

"It's exciting to go to Barcelona with an opportunity to win the Bouclier," he said, with a capacity 98,000 crowd expected at the Camp Nou for the first final to be held off French territory due to the ongoing European football championships in France.

"It's huge for us as a team, it was our goal at the start of the season and now we have an opportunity to do that, although we have difficult opposition in front of us.

"It's going to be a huge challenge. Racing are a very good team and we'll have to be at our best on Friday. We need a good week of preparation leading into that game.

"For us as a team it will be a huge occasion and one that we need to go out and try to enjoy."

Read more on:    leigh halfpenny  |  rugby

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