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Leigh Halfpenny signs Toulon deal

Updated: Thursday, 23 Jan 2014 22:37 | Comments

Leigh Halfpenny is set for a move to France
Leigh Halfpenny is set for a move to France

Leigh Halfpenny has underlined his desire to continue playing for Wales after agreeing a lucrative contract with reigning European champions Toulon.

The Wales full-back's two-year deal, plus a third season option, will see him join fellow superstars like Jonny Wilkinson and Bryan Habana at Stade Felix Mayol.

He will leave Cardiff Blues in June, following Wales colleagues like Jamie Roberts, Dan Lydiate and James Hook to France's Top 14, while his fellow internationals Ian Evans (Toulon) and Jonathan Davies (Clermont Auvergne) are also departing the Welsh domestic game later this year.

"Having taken time to consider every option in detail, I believe the decision to move to Toulon is the best decision for me"

Halfpenny's impending exit, though, has been accompanied by powerful remarks from Blues chief executive Richard Holland that vividly reflect ongoing political unrest between the four professional Welsh regions - Blues, Ospreys, Scarlets and Newport Gwent Dragons - and the Welsh Rugby Union.

Critical areas such as revenue and competition structure remain unresolved against a backdrop of uncertainty surrounding next season's Heineken Cup.

A number of other top Wales players, including Halfpenny's Blues team-mate and Wales captain Sam Warburton, are also out of contract at the end of this season.

No announcement has yet been made regarding Warburton's future, while Ospreys and Wales forwards Alun-Wyn Jones and Adam Jones have regularly been linked with possible big-money moves abroad.

Holland hailed 25-year-old Halfpenny as "one of the most prized players in world rugby," but he also made an impassioned plea for the game's future in Wales to be "sorted out now".

Some reports have claimed that Halfpenny, last season's RBS 6 Nations player of the tournament and British and Irish Lions man of the series against Australia, will earn close to £400,000 a year in Toulon.

"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," Halfpenny said.

"I am 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 am very proud to have been given the opportunity to be part of that.

"Having said that, I will be incredibly sad to say goodbye to everyone at the Cardiff Blues, the fans, the squad and the staff.

"I'm incredibly thankful to the WRU (Welsh Rugby Union) for their support. 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."

Halfpenny has won 48 caps and scored almost 350 points for Wales.

His exploits last year were further recognised by him finishing as runner-up to Andy Murray in the BBC Sports Personality of the Year awards, and being named Welsh Sports Personality of the Year.

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