Wales legend could be Richie Mo’unga’s replacement after shock Crusaders move

Colin Newboult
Leigh Halfpenny on the run for Wales against the Barbarians in 2023.

Leigh Halfpenny on the run for Wales against the Barbarians in 2023.

Leigh Halfpenny’s new venture could well yield a change of position when he joins the Crusaders ahead of the 2024 Super Rugby season.

The Welsh centurion, who retired from international rugby following their game against the Barbarians, has signed a deal with the New Zealand outfit.

Halfpenny played his final match for Wales in their 49-26 triumph over the Baa-baas and received a rapturous reception from the supporters when he was replaced.

He will soon head down under to Christchurch to join up with the Crusaders for pre-season as they prepare for the new campaign.

Fly-half stocks

The 34-year-old is considered an out-and-out full-back, but they are well stocked in that position where All Blacks star Will Jordan is expected to feature heavily.

In contrast, at fly-half, the Crusaders have lost the services of Richie Mo’unga, who has moved to Japan on a three-year contract.

Fergus Burke was expected to fill that role in 2024, but his Achilles injury has ruled him out for the first few games of the campaign.

The other options, new signing Rivez Reihana and talented U20 playmaker Taha Kemara, are relatively callow at Super Rugby level.

“Full-back is where I play, where I enjoy playing. But wherever I get the opportunity to put the jersey on, I’m happy,” Halfpenny told reporters.

“To play 10 and challenge myself there would be exciting as well, and I certainly would be welcome to that opportunity if it presented itself.”

The new season will be the Crusaders’ first since 2016 without Scott Robertson as their head coach.

Robertson has succeeded Ian Foster as the All Blacks’ boss, with former Munster head honcho Rob Penney taking over at the Christchurch-based side.

Text from Penney

Halfpenny has been without a club following his departure from the Scarlets, and the 34-year-old jumped at the chance to sign for the team when he received a message from Penney.

“When the text came through, I got pretty excited,” he said.

“I’ve always enjoyed watching Super Rugby, grew up watching it as a kid, and the Crusaders was the team that I always followed.”

Halfpenny has played in three World Cups and earned over 100 caps, featuring all around the globe, but this is very much a new venture for the great Welshman.

“I’m just hugely grateful for the opportunity,” he added.

“I just can’t wait to come over and meet everyone and get started; just look to challenge myself, push myself, and look to do whatever I can for the team.

“Rob Penney and his team couldn’t have been any more welcoming, and I feel hugely honoured to be joining them.

“I’ve always loved the time I’ve spent in New Zealand on tour. It’s a passionate rugby nation, and I’ve always been made to feel very much at home there. My family and I are very excited about the move.”

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