It’s a controversial statement, I know. However, for me it’s quite an easy decision. If I was Peter Thomas/Richard Holland/Billy Millard/Danny Wilson (please circle the appropriate option) I would not even be considering bringing Leigh Halfpenny back to Cardiff from Toulon.
Obviously we all know that Leigh will be available at the end of the season. He’s had a pretty disappointing time of things by all accounts in the South of France, with injuries restricting him at the start of his move, and then again during this season, although he was around to win the Champions Cup last year, so not all bad. However he’s looking to leave this summer, and with a move to Wasps seemingly being ruled out due to Leigh’s international commitments, it’s all eyes towards Wales.
You have to imagine it’ll be a National Dual Contract so that Halfpenny can earn as much money as possible, and the WRU can have total control over him. With Newport being ruled out because they’ve got no money and they’re rubbish, it leaves us, Llanelli and the Ospreys. The Ospreys have a load of Wales players and NDCs anyway, resulting in a high wage bill already, so I can’t imagine it’ll be a move back to his native Swansea area for Leigh (who really wants to live in Gorseinon?). Therefore it’s a shootout between Cardiff and Llanelli.
So why wouldn’t I sign him? Well, reason one, we just don’t need him. As things stand, we have Rhys Patchell still. When Gareth Anscombe is available as well, one of them has to play full-back, and I’m confident they would start in most sides in the Pro12, neither are too shabby to say the least. Also able to play there we have Dan Fish, who has had an excellent start to this season, Aled Summerhill, who will probably go on to become a full-time full-back one day, Blaine Scully, who I have seen flashes from that have impressed me, and we also have Tom Williams to come back from the Scarlets and after a new contract. Aside from that, I’d be more than happy to see Tom James back there if necessary as well, plus even if Patchell leaves, Jarrod Evans could start at 10 with Anscombe dropping back. Fair to say, there are options at full-back, and that’s not to mention how well we could spend any Halfpenny money on a raft of positions in the forwards.
There is a reason two as well. Goal-kicking aside, I’ve never really rated Halfpenny. In all honesty, I’d play him on the wing before I played him at full-back, and we need even less cover there than we do at full-back. Why don’t I rate him? Well, he’s excellent under the high ball, I will give him that, but it’s what he does afterwards that lets him down in my eyes. Nine times out of 10 it will be a classic Gary Owen ‘up and under’, with varying rates of success. The very same tendency to kick that has really seen us fall since the days of Dai Young, cuminating in the Phil Davies days where the ball never touched the ground. Rarely will you see Leigh Halfpenny running the ball back, and it doesn’t get very far when he does. I mean, when was the last time Leigh Halfpenny made a break for a try you can think of?
He is undoubtedly a fantastic goal kicker, and that certainly boosts his worth, but would a soccer player be made the highest paid player at a club because he’s good at penalty kicks? No is the answer. The long and short of it in my eyes is that there are better ways to spend the money. We need a prop on both sides of the scrum and a lock, as well as a centre, before we think about paying big bucks for a Leigh Halfpenny-type. I just hope the temptation of a big name, who is pretty susceptible to injury and only available for 16 games maximum, won’t be too much for the Cardiff decision-makers.