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Leigh Halfpenny Plans To Play On Until 36 . . . But Not For Wales

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By Gareth James

Leigh Halfpenny expects a “pretty special” Wales send-off on Saturday while hoping to continue playing for another two seasons.

Halfpenny announced his decision to retire from international duty following Wales’ exit from the recent Rugby World Cup and will make his final appearance in the red jersey against the Barbarians in Cardiff.

But the 34-year-old is set to prolong his career, with Japan considered to be the most likely destination ahead of an official announcement next week.

“It’s all done,” Halfpenny said ahead of his Millennium Stadium farewell.

“I’ve got a contract for another season and then we’ll see what happens after that. I’m looking for that to be announced next week.”

Halfpenny won 101 caps for Wales – the Barbarians game, which is being staged to pay tribute to the country’s record cap holder Alun Wyn Jones, is uncapped – and scored 801 points after making his debut at the age of 19 against South Africa in November 2008.

He made four Test appearances for the Lions across the 2013 and 2017 tours, although he was also selected in 2009 before injury cut short his involvement.

Halfpenny was named player of the series in 2013, helping the Lions to a 2-1 series victory in Australia.

He said: “I’m just grateful for the opportunities I’ve had to wear the jersey over the last 15 years.

“It’s been an absolute privilege to put on the Welsh shirt and I’m really excited for Saturday.

“I’ve got a few friends and family coming along, and I’m looking forward to going out one last time.

“To run out alongside guys like Alun and Justin Tipuric, albeit they’ll be on the opposite side, and share the field with those two greats of the game and Welsh legends again will be pretty special.”

Halfpenny is third on the all-time list of men’s points scorers for Wales, behind Neil Jenkins (1,049) and Stephen Jones (917).

He says he grew up in the Swansea suburb of Gorseinon determined to emulate outside-half Jenkins, hero of the Lions’ 1997 series victory in South Africa.

Halfpenny said: “Jenks was an idol for me, watching him play and kick for Wales. He made me want to be like him kicking for Wales.“I just went down the field and put the practice in. That was my dream, to play and kick for Wales.

“I’ve got to be honest, I was pretty star-struck when I met up with him at St Helen’s (the home ground of Swansea RFC) at the age of 16, and he’s been incredible for me.

“I’ve learned so much from him; not just goal-kicking but the work you need to put in. He’s supported me throughout and been huge in what I’ve been able to achieve.”

Halfpenny also wants to follow Jenkins into coaching, adding: “It’s something that I would like to do once I hang up the boots.

“I will be having a chat with him and picking up any tips I can. He’s one of the best in the world and to learn from him has been pretty special.”

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