Leigh Halfpenny available for British & Irish Lions tour to New Zealand

Leigh Halfpenny in action for Toulon. Photo / Photosport
Leigh Halfpenny in action for Toulon. Photo / Photosport

Wales full-back Leigh Halfpenny has confirmed that he has received permission from Toulon to participate in the British & Irish Lions tour to New Zealand next summer.

There had been fears that Halfpenny, who was the Lions' man of the series in the 2-1 victory against Australia in 2013, would not be allowed to join the tour which clashes with the end of the domestic French season. The Top 14 play-offs begin on May 20 with the final on June 6, by which time the Lions would be playing the second game of their tour.

Yet the 27 year-old, who has scored 508 points in 62 Tests, says that he has received permission from Toulon president Mourad Boudjellal to play a full part in the 10-match tour if he is selected.

"We have an agreement with Mourad Boudjellal," Halfpenny told L'Equipe, the French sports newspaper. "When I extended for this season, it was expected that I be released if I was selected for the British Lions tour.

"It falls right during the finals of the Top 14, and if I am selected, I will miss the end of the season. The staff and the president told me that having a player selected with the Lions would be an honour for the club.

"All this is still in a long time. To be with the Lions, you have to be good at your club. I have come back from a big injury, and for now, I am focused on being good with Toulon."

The speculation that Halfpenny would not be released was well founded. Boudjellal drives a notoriously hard bargain and has shown little inclination to help the home nations in the past.

After winning the European Champions Cup with Toulon in 2015, Halfpenny suffered a serious knee injury in a World Cup warm-up game which ruled him out for nearly 10 months.

Boudjellal then threatened to withhold his wages if he toured New Zealand with Wales and Halfpenny subsequently played for Toulon in the play-offs.

- Daily Telegraph UK

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