Leigh Halfpenny of Wales. Pic: Simon King/Replay Images.

Leigh Halfpenny Says He And Wales Have World Cup Lift-Off

Leigh Halfpenny insists Wales now have momentum in their favour as they head towards the World Cup.

The Wales full-back helped Wales reach the summit of rugby union’s world rankings just hours after a punishing training session in an altitude room.

Halfpenny returned to Test rugby in Wales’ 13-6 World Cup warm-up victory over England at the Principality Stadium.

Now, with two matches to come against Ireland before Wales leave for the tournament in Japan, the goal-kicker feels both he and the team are back in the best of health.

It was the Scarlets full-back’s first international appearance since he suffered concussion after a challenge by Wallabies centre Samu Kerevi when Wales beat Australia nine months ago.

But it proved an unexpected call-up, being drafted in to start from outside the selected match-day 23 when Liam Williams experienced hamstring tightness during Wales’ final preparations less than an hour before kick-off.

Having initially not been required against England, Halfpenny’s training schedule featured gruelling work-outs on Friday and Saturday before he joined pre-match routines at the stadium as part of Wales’ wider 31-man group.

Halfpenny, though, dusted himself down, played the full 80 minutes and kicked a late penalty that sealed Wales’ 11th successive home win and saw them replace New Zealand as the world’s number one team.

“I’m not going to lie – we had a couple of tough sessions in the last couple of days,” said Halfpenny.

“But you get the call, and that adrenaline just kicks in. It’s an opportunity to put that jersey on.

“On Friday, we had speed endurance training. We did Broncos, which are basically shuttles, and the boys put it in on Friday after the captain’s run.

“Then on Saturday morning I had leg weights followed by a watt bike session in the altitude room. (I) wasn’t walking too well, I will be honest.”

Halfpenny had missed Wales’ last eight Tests, including the Six Nations title and Grand Slam-winning campaign earlier this year, but he acquitted himself well during an intense encounter.

“You never know when it could be the last time that you wear that jersey,” he added. “You just keep working hard.

Maro Itoje of England under pressure from Alun Wyn Jones of Wales. Pic: Simon King/Replay Images.

“It was a real tough Test match, and the boys dug deep at times when we needed to. It was a great result.

“We’ve got that momentum going now ahead of our (training) camp in Turkey. The boys will be putting the hard work in again.”

Wales’ World Cup training squad will work at the purpose-built Gloria Sports Arena in Belek on Turkey’s southern Mediterranean coast, where day-time temperatures currently average 33 degrees.

Players who suffered knocks against England – the likes of Dan Biggar, James Davies, Jake Ball, Aaron Wainwright and Gareth Davies – were set to be assessed before departure, but Wales head coach Warren Gatland does not anticipate any serious issues.

Reflecting on his team’s latest win – their 15th from the last 16 starts – Gatland said: “You’re playing England, so you have to get yourself right.

The boys knew how important it was, psychologically. Had we lost to England, that potentially has an impact later on if we met them in the World Cup.

“It will be one hell of a battle if we do meet in the quarter-final of a World Cup.

“So mentally, they got themselves on the edge. They prepared well and did a good job.”

Eddie Jones believes Pascal Gauzere should be shown a yellow card for allowing George North’s try in England’s defeat even though the French referee acted within the laws.

Gauzere let Dan Biggar take a quick tap penalty that led to North claiming the crucial score as Warren Gatland’s men avenged their defeat at Twickenham six days earlier.

Head Coach Eddie Jones of England. Pic: Simon King/Replay Images.

England were expecting Gauzere to wait for the sin-binned Anthony Watson to leave the pitch as punishment for a deliberate knock-on before allowing Wales to restart play.

However, there is no law requiring the referee to pause the game until the carded player is off the field.

When asked if Gauzere should have waited, England head coach Jones replied: “I think we all thought that was the law. So maybe the yellow card should have gone to the referee.

“It is what it is. We had to cope with whatever he decided was right. And if he wants a variation of the law, we’ve got to be good enough to cope with it.

“It’s not worth going into it because I don’t want that to be the headline of the game. It happened, we had to cope with it, didn’t cope with it, and they scored their winning try. So be it.”


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