Rugby: Halfpenny wins player award

Leigh Halfpenny starred for Wales. Photo / Getty Images
Leigh Halfpenny starred for Wales. Photo / Getty Images

Wales fullback Leigh Halfpenny has won the 2013 Six Nations Player of the Year award.

Halfpenny, who scored 74 points in the tournament as Wales retained their title, was well out in front of a public vote, gaining 40 per cent of the ballot, well ahead of the runner-up, Italy flanker Alessandro Zanni, with Scotland fullback Stuart Hogg third.

More than 80,000 people voted after a 15-player shortlist was compiled through a mix of rugby statistics and fans' opinion on social media sites, as Halfpenny succeeded Wales team-mate Dan Lydiate, both impressive in the 2011 World Cup in New Zealand, in winning the top Six Nations individual honour.

Cardiff Blues' Halfpenny is widely regarded as the overwhelming favourite to be the British and Irish Lions fullback in Australia this year.

"It's the icing on the cake of an exceptional year for Wales and it is a privilege to be part of such an exceptional group of people," said Halfpenny.

The 24-year-old received his trophy in Cardiff yesterday, just under a week after Wales thrashed England by a record-breaking 30-3 at the Millennium Stadium to retain the Six Nations title and deny their arch-rivals a grand slam.

"The atmosphere in the stadium was unbelievable," said Halfpenny. "Singing the anthem is something I'll never forget and the fans were outstanding. Against England, everything came together and clicked. It was a great performance and the best game I've been involved in."

Meanwhile, Wallabies and Waratahs back Adam Ashley-Cooper has opted to stay in Australia until after the 2015 Rugby World Cup. Ashley-Cooper, who will today play for the Waratahs against the Blues (after appearing 78 times for the Brumbies between 2005 and 2011), has resisted overtures to move offshore. He cited unfinished business in test and Super Rugby as primary reasons behind the decision to stay.

"I'm not done yet," he said. "I'd like another crack at the Rugby World Cup. I wouldn't mind winning Super Rugby either. The competition for places, after all the injuries we had last year, has left the Wallabies in a pretty good space. Everyone is excited about what's coming up this year with the Lions tour but there's a World Cup not that far away now and goals like the Rugby Championship and especially the Bledisloe Cup in between."

- Agencies

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