Six Nations 2015: Leigh Halfpenny expecting huge challenge in Paris
Toulon and Wales full-back insists they will have to be at their best to leave the Stade de France with a win on Saturday afternoon
Leigh Halfpenny believes Wales face a huge challenge when they take on France in the RBS 6 Nations on Saturday.
After early injury set-backs ruled him out of the start of the season, the Wales full-back has been in sublime form since finding his feet on the Côte d’Azur following his summer move from Cardiff Blues.
We are going to have to be at our best to come away with what we are going there for, and that’s a win.
And the 26-year-old believes the passionate rouge et noir of Toulon reminds him of the passion for rugby back home in Wales.
That passion in French rugby extends to the national team, and with the majority of the 80,000 expected at the Stade de France on Saturday cheering on Les Bleus, Halfpenny expects a huge challenge if Wales are to leave Paris with a second win in this year’s championship.
“Toulon reminds me of Wales in terms of their passion for rugby,” Halfpenny said.
“The sport in Wales is huge like it is in Toulon. Both sets of fans are hugely passionate.
“Before the game in Toulon when you get off the bus you walk through a tunnel of fans into the changing room. It’s incredible, and I have not seen anything like that at club level [in Wales].
“It reminds me of travelling in on the bus for Wales outside the Millennium Stadium with the fans cheering you in. It gives you a huge buzz going into the changing room.
“We know that when we go to Paris it will be a huge atmosphere and very loud.
“It’s great to play in front of and a huge challenge.
“We are going to have to be at our best to come away with what we are going there for, and that’s a win.”
Halfpenny has been the only omnipresent fixture in Wales’ back three in this year’s campaign with George North missing the win over Scotland as Liam Williams deputised for the concussed star.
With his former Cardiff Blues team-mate Alex Cuthbert woefully out of form, head coach Warren Gatland has opted to recall fit again North at Cuthbert’s expense, with Williams retained on the left wing.
We had a good win against Scotland away, and we have to take that confidence and belief into Paris this weekend.
North has something to prove to many after a slow start to the campaign, not helped by a double head knock in the opening-round 21-16 defeat to England in Cardiff, but Halfpenny and Williams were outstanding in Wales’ 26-23 win over Scotland.
While five of Halfpenny’s Toulon team-mates have been named in the France 23, the Wales’ points machine insists he is focusing on his job for the national team as they look to back up their strong performance in Edinburgh.
“I am just focused on doing my job for Wales and what is expected of me,” he added.
“I know a few of the guys, and I will catch up with them after the game.
“My focus is on doing the job for Wales; we know it’s going to be a huge challenge.
“We had a good win against Scotland away, and we have to take that confidence and belief into Paris this weekend.
“They have got some physical guys to come at us and get over the gainline. We need to stop that, be solid in defence, and make sure that they are not getting yards on us.”