Leigh Halfpenny has predicted a bright future for Cardiff Blues ahead of his farewell to a region that has been his home for so long.
Leigh Halfpenny predicted a bright future for Cardiff Blues ahead of his emotional farewell to a region that has been home over the last seven years.
Halfpenny, 25, has become one of world rugby's biggest talents during his time at Blues, winning 48 caps for Wales and three for the Lions.
The Swansea-born back represented the region at age grade level before linking up with Cardiff RFC in 2007. He made his senior Blues debut against Ulster at Ravenhill in 2008 and has since become one of the most prolific point scorers in the European and domestic game.
He finishes his seventh senior season with Blues this week having made a total of 87 appearances and amassed 568 points for the region.
Halfpenny is now preparing for a new challenge overseas with French giants Toulon, but in his final few days at Blues he took time out to thank those that have nurtured his career and paid a special tribute to the fans that supported him all the way.
And looking to the future at the Arms Park, Halfpenny is convinced Blues are on the up.
“I will miss the place massively in terms of the players, the coaching staff, the back-room staff, the board and the fans, who have been fantastic since I arrived here. The support they have shown me has been incredible and overwhelming really,” he said.
“There are a fantastic group of boys here and all through the years I've loved my time here.
“I would like to thank them all for everything they have done for in my time here. It's sad that it's my last week and I'm going to be saying goodbye.
“I might be leaving, but I really believe Blues are going to be a quality side,” he added. “It's great to see the way we are playing as a team at the moment. I'd love to see them do really well next season and be in the top European competition where they belong the season after.
“Seeing the way the Blues are finishing the season, and the quality and potential this side has, they are going to be a side to be reckoned with in the next couple of seasons, if not next season.”
Halfpenny is currently recovering from shoulder surgery, after picking up the injury in the Six Nations clash with England at Twickenham.
It is that injury that will deprive him of the chance of one final appearance in a Blues jersey this weekend at Scarlets and the full back admits he is 'gutted' not to get the chance to say goodbye on the field.
“As soon as I did the injury I realised I had played my last game for the Blues for the next three years at least,” admitted Halfpenny, who has become a formidable force in the international arena since his debut for Wales in 2008 against South Africa.
“I'd have loved to put that jersey on for one last time with the boys I have played with, many of whom I have been here from the beginning with me for seven years.
“It's been hugely disappointing with the injury, but I can't do anything about it. I have to try and take the positives and look at it now as a break from playing and make the most of it of this time.
“I'm still able to kick, which is a good thing. If I wasn't able to, I would be going mad by now!”
In terms of his preparations for life in France, Halfpenny has revealed language lessons are going well as he looks to settle into a new way of life and culture.
But first up is one last week as a true Blue and looking back at the last seven years he revealed the EDF Energy Cup final win over Gloucester would go down as his favourite game at the region.
“That was just an amazing game to be part of. To put 50 points on a quality side like them was a great memory. It was a boiling hot day, Twickenham was heaving,” he said.
“So many Blues fans turned up for the game. Everything just came together that day. Lifting that cup, taking it round the field and cheering to all the Blues fans was incredible. It was a great day.
“It's really sad to say goodbye to the Cardiff Blues,” he added. “But now it's a new chapter in my career and my life. It's one I'm really looking forward to and really excited about and one I'm keen to make the most of.”