Leigh Halfpenny: Cardiff Blues hope to tempt full-back home

By Dewi HughesBBC Wales Sport
Leigh Halfpenny
Leigh Halfpenny spent six years with Cardiff Blues before joining Toulon in 2014

Cardiff Blues believe they would be a viable option for Leigh Halfpenny should he decide to return to Wales.

Full-back Halfpenny, 26, is out of contract with Toulon at the end of the season and is weighing up his options.

Blues coach Danny Wilson says they cannot offer the highest wages but would be able to ensure Halfpenny is in "peak" condition for Wales.

"The best interests of the player internationally would be at the front of our minds," said Wilson.

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Halfpenny, who made 87 appearances for the Blues between 2008 and 2014 , would be a strong contender for a national dual contract (NDC) if he returned to Wales after spending two years in France.

The salary on such a deal would be funded 60% by the Welsh Rugby Union (WRU), with the region paying the rest.

In return for the financial support, the regions agree to limit the number of appearances the player makes to suit the needs of the national side.

Wilson believes the prospect of being managed in that way would be a major attraction for Halfpenny, whose career has been blighted by injury, including missing the recent Rugby World Cup.

"The design of the central [NDC] contract is to get our best players playing and staying in Wales, and therefore the management of those players has to be a huge selling point," he said.

"Between us and the strong relationship with the Welsh Rugby Union, the player gets the management he wants to peak and perform for Wales.

"That's the idea of it and that has to be a selling point from a regional relationship. The other selling point we don't have is the same money as other people have to offer."

Who else wants Halfpenny?

Scarlets have also voiced their interest in the British and Irish Lion, while Premiership side Wasps have been strongly linked.

Both are likely to be involved in the top tier of European competition next season, the Champions Cup, whereas the Blues are set to be in the second tier Challenge Cup.

If Halfpenny wants to return to Wales, the binding agreement between the WRU and the Welsh regions gives the Blues first refusal as the region that developed him.

"If Leigh does make a decision he wants to come back to Wales, I'd like to think Cardiff Blues would be high on his list of considerations," said Wilson.

"I'd imagine all four regions would like to have Leigh Halfpenny playing for them.

"A calibre of player like Leigh Halfpenny will have many options, whether that's regions, clubs over the bridge, clubs in France.

"There are a number of players we are talking to - players we are in the process of finalising conversations with and we'll see how things pan out."

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