Planet Rugby

Player of the Year nominee: Halfpenny

28th November 2013 11:16


British and Irish Lions 3rd Test Leigh Halfpenny

Leigh Halfpenny: World's best player?

We asked five Planet Rugby scribes to name their 2013 Player of the Year...and got five different answers. Adam Kyriacou argues the case for Leigh Halfpenny.

Leigh Halfpenny - What hasn't he achieved on the international scene in 2013?

Wales won the Six Nations for the second time in as many years, the first time they had claimed back-to-back championships since their 1978 and 1979 wins, and Halfpenny was instrumental in that triumph. He top scored in the 2013 showpiece, claiming 74 points and thus going on to win the Player of the Championship gong, with his solidity in defence, attacking threat and goal-kicking instrumental throughout.

His performances in the Heineken Cup group stages were also impressive before the arrival of the British and Irish Lions tour and arguably the finest few weeks of his still young career. Halfpenny scored 49 points in the three-Test series against Australia, landing 114 on the tour as a whole.

That put him in pole position for the IRB Player of the Year gong as without him the Lions probably would not have won their first series since 1997.

He hardly put a foot wrong Down Under - luckily no slips for him - and was ultimately the difference between winning and losing the series.

Fast forward to returning home to Cardiff and his fine form has rarely dipped for the Blues and also Wales in November, cementing his nomination for the BBC Sports Personality of the Year award.

It is worth noting that the last rugby nominations came ten years ago when Jonny Wilkinson lifted the coveted prize ahead of Martin Johnson after their Rugby World Cup triumph, which illustrates just what a year it has been for this full-back.

What sets Halfpenny apart from the likes of fellow front-runners Kieran Read and Ben Smith is his match-winning ability off the tee - quite simply his form seems unflappable in front of the uprights.

Wales and the Lions' place-kicking guru Neil Jenkins lives every effort with his kicker but take nothing away from Halfpenny, his consistency in strike rate is down to hours of practice on a weekly basis that has paid dividends in 2013.

As mentioned, it is likely he will go up against Read and Smith in a three-horse race for the IRB award after the All Blacks' 14 and 0 record but for me, Halfpenny sneaks this award.

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