Wales fullback Leigh Halfpenny has opened up on the surprise he felt when he was told that Toulon were letting him go in the summer.
The 28-year-old, who has since signed for Scarlets in his homeland ahead of the inaugural Top 14 season, had expected to stay in France and though he had negotiated a new deal before going on Lions duty in New Zealand. However, Toulon’s owner Mourad Boudjellal later announced that his deal would not be renewed and that his services would no longer be required at the club.
Halfpenny also said that although he concentrated as best he could on the task at hand with the Lions, the speculation was hard to ignore:
“I won’t lie, it was tough. It was a huge surprise.
“I had agreed a long time ago to stay at Toulon for one more season, but for whatever reason there was delays,” said Halfpenny.
“Before the [Top 14] semi-final everything had got agreed and it was just a case of signing the contract, but it never came through. Then, I found out in New Zealand that there wasn’t an option for me.
“It has been extremely tough. It was tough having to watch the final and not be there, of course, but you are on a Lions tour and that is so special.
“Then to have that news, you have to focus on playing on a Lions tour, which is every player’s dream and a goal I set from the very off.
“I wanted to give that everything, I still focused on the tour, but the speculation and everything that came with it, was tough to deal with.”
After a move to Cardiff Blues broke down earlier this year (which preceded the initial Toulon offer), Halfpenny looked as though he may have remained in limbo for a bit with the Welsh regions and a number of Premiership clubs in England all distancing themselves from him.
— Welsh Rugby Union ? (@WelshRugbyUnion) August 8, 2017
He added that he always felt like coming home to Wales was the right option, and he duly joined Scarlets earlier this month:
“I knew I wanted to come back to Wales and that felt like the right option.
“Then it was a case of assessing my options from there and after that I made a decision to come to the Scarlets. With the likes of Liam [Williams] and DTH van der Merwe leaving there was a vacancy in the back three and that felt like the right fit.
“Watching the Scarlets play and speaking to the guys, they like to play an attacking brand of rugby. For me that is something I want to bring back into my game.
“Watching how the Scarlets played and knowing a lot of the guys and how they play, it felt like the right choice.”
All going well, Halfpenny will make his debut for his new side early next month.
[gravityform id=”1″ title=”true” description=”true”]