If all reports are to be believed, Leigh Halfpenny is on his way back to Wales. Though reports about a week ago suggested that he was going back to Cardiff, it would now appear that he will be playing his home matches at Parc y Scarlets next season on a dual contract, having apparently take a pay cut to return to the principality. It’s rare that a 3-time tourist with the Lions and a regular for Wales would struggle so much to find a team following their release from Toulon, but Halfpenny has and to be honest I thought his options were quite limited this summer:
Due to his late release from Toulon while he was away in New Zealand, Halfpenny was not able to enter serious negotiations with other clubs until the Tour was over, by which points many clubs will have finished business. Combined with this, there would have also been questions over his wages and his availability.
Though by no means the most expensive player in the world, Halfpenny will have been on some considerable money at Toulon, a figure that probably only a few Premiership and Top 14 clubs would have considered coming close to. However the fact that Halfpenny will frequently be away with Wales (and possibly the Lions again in 4 years), not to mention his injury history (it’s great to see a player willing to put his body on the line but the tackle technique isn’t always quite there) means that this would be a substantial amount of money to be paid for someone who would probably not even be considered in the top 6 at his position – either at wing or fullback.
Coming back to Wales would be ideal for both the WRU and Halfpenny himself, as this means that he will be available for Wales under Gatland’s Law. However the WRU and the Regions do not have the same budgets as other leagues so would struggle with his salary, which is why the WRU’s national dual contract – with the WRU covering 60% of his salary – makes sense in this case. While it would have been nice to see him return to his former club, they already have a number of quality players in the back 3, including Alex Cuthbert, Gareth Anscombe, Matthew Morgan, Tom James and Blaine Scully. From a personnel perspective, one of the other Regions made more sense, and my opinion was always that he should move to Scarlets as they were losing 2 experienced internationals (Liam Williams and D.T.H. van der Merwe) from their back 3 this summer.
My mate from uni is a Scarlets fan and didn’t seem overly enthused with the news as he thinks that will be all of the Scarlet’s budget gone. While this may be the case, I have faith that he will be worth it, both for his reliable goal kicking and the experience he will help bring to the back 3.
I hope the move works out for him and as a Gloucester fan, I look forward to hopefully seeing him in preseason later this month.