Wales full-back Leigh Halfpenny to join big-spending Toulon
Wales and Lions full-back Leigh Halfpenny confirms he will leave Cardiff Blues to join Toulon next season
Leigh Halfpenny will leave Cardiff Blues in the summer to join Heineken Cup champions Toulon.
The 25-year-old, who kicked Wales to the successful defence of their Six Nations crown and the British and Irish Lions to an historic series win in Australia, had been courted by several big-spending clubs in the Top 14.
I’m very excited about joining Toulon. They are an outstanding club, very ambitious, full of world class players and are the current European Champions
Ahead of this year’s Six Nations championship, the Blues confirmed reports that Halfpenny was to leave the Pro12 side after seven senior seasons with the region, having amassed 568 points from 87 appearances having come through age-grade level and Cardiff RFC in 2007.
With the Welsh regions struggling financially and uncertainty around which competitions they will compete in next season, as well as the Welsh Rugby Union considering central contracts for star players, the Gorseinion-born full-back turned down two contracts for a lucrative deal in the south of France, reportedly worth almost £400,000-a-year.
Halfpenny said in a statement released by WRU: “Having taken time to consider every option in detail, I believe the decision to move to Toulon is the best decision for me and my continued development as a rugby player and as a person.
“I’m very excited about joining Toulon. They are an outstanding club, very ambitious, full of world class players and are the current European Champions so I’m very proud to have been given the opportunity to be part of that.”
He added: “I’ve been very fortunate to have spent the last seven years there with great players and people and will always be a club that remains close to my heart. I have thoroughly enjoyed my time there, made some lifelong friends. I can’t thank them enough for giving me the opportunity and for their continued support.
“I’m incredibly thankful to the WRU for their support. At this moment in time though I feel the decision to move to France is the best career opportunity for me personally as a professional rugby player.
“Toulon are fully supportive of my international desires and duties and I would like to thank them for this as it was an important factor in my decision.”
Leigh has been a fantastic servant to the Blues and I know how hard a decision this has been for him
Richard Holland, Blues chief executive, said: “Retaining Leigh has been one of our highest priorities and we have done all we can in our power as a region and business to try and facilitate that.
“His outstanding performances for Blues, Wales and the Lions have made him one of the most prized players in world rugby. We put our very best offer on the table but he has been the target of a major European club with significant resources that we simply cannot compete with at this current time.
“Leigh has been a fantastic servant to the Blues and I know how hard a decision this has been for him. He has been presented with a tremendous opportunity to play overseas and feels this is the right move at this stage in his career. He will go with our very best wishes for success with his new club.”
Halfpenny’s move to Toulon will see him join up with Welsh team-mate Ian Evans who will join the club from Ospreys in the summer, while the club also counts English trio Jonny Wilkinson, Steffon and Delon Armitage among its star-studded squad.
Phil Davies, Blues Director of Rugby, added: “Leigh is one of the most professional and dedicated players I have ever worked with and a proven match winner. His mental strength sets him apart from others.
“His development from the age grade system through to international honours is testament the career pathway we have here at Blues and I look forward to seeing the next generation now follow his lead to the top of the game.”