Leigh Halfpenny has not linked up with the Lions squad because he is currently involved in the Top 14 playoffs with Toulon. Richard Cockerill’s side finished fourth in this season’s Top 14 and have already navigated a quarter-final win against Castres which Halfpenny played an instrumental role.
The southern French club are up again on Friday night when they take on the formidable and this season’s surprise package, La Rochelle. If Toulon successfully progresses through this match, they will face either Clermont Auvergne or Racing 92 in this year’s Top 14 final.
However, there is just one little issue with this. Halfpenny, a key player for Toulon (he scored 21 points in their recent victory over Castres), is in the British & Irish Lions squad. The Lions are due to fly out to New Zealand on Monday, with their first game against the New Zealand Provincial Barbarians taking place on Saturday.
If Toulon progress to the final, then that match would take place on Sunday June 4, one day after the Lions’ first match and three days before they face the Auckland Blues.
Midi Olympique is reporting today that Toulon president will ask Halfpenny to stay on for another week if they reach the final but that the request will be ‘in vain’ and that they are resigned to losing the Welsh star to the Lions.
It will be interesting to see what happens if Toulon do progress to the final, Halfpenny has spent a lot of time on the sidelines with Toulon since he made the move to France and perhaps he may feel that he owes the club the best opportunity to secure silverware.
On the other side of the coin, another week not in Lions camp is pushing Halfpenny further down the pecking order so it is certainly a tough decision for the 28-year-old to make.
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