Lion raring to go

2009 Lion Leigh Halfpenny is hoping he can flourish after returning from his latest injury set-back. [more]

Lion raring to go

2009 Lion Leigh Halfpenny is hoping he can flourish after returning from his latest injury set-back.

Halfpenny fought his way back to fitness to secure a place on the 2009 Lions tour to South Africa, but his trip was cut short after just one game following a recurrence of his injury.

His injury nightmare struck again last year, when he damaged his ankle on the eve of Wales’ autumn campaign.

But after returning to action as a replacement in Cardiff Blues 27-25 victory over Ospreys, Halfpenny reckons he is in better shape than ever and is determined to make up for lost time.

“It was a massive frustration and disappointment to get the injury, more because of the timing of it, just before the Autumn internationals and then missing some big Heineken Cup games for Cardiff Blues,” said Halfpenny.

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“I was in good shape after working really hard and happy with my form, so that just made the injury worse.

“But I had to try and make the most of it in terms of my strength and conditioning. I have put on a bit of size, got a bit stronger and improved a few things with my running technique so hopefully the break will pay off in the long run.

“I haven't been able to do a great deal of running work so my speed is still something that needs some work to build back up to where I was.

“But I'm feeling great. My rehab was fine and training went without any reaction so that was a real positive.

“Obviously the key thing is to make sure I come back at the right time and didn't rush anything. I've learned from the past that it's better to wait an extra week and not risk the chance of making things worse and facing another month out.”

Halfpenny is now aiming to remind Warren Gatland and co what they have been missing first on the regional stage before, fingers-crossed, the RBS 6Nations.

“As bad as the timing was, there is still so much rugby to be played this season for both club and country.

“The Blues may be out of Europe but we're in a decent position in the Magners League and that is something we really need to focus on in terms of winning silverware.

“Then there's the Six Nations and of course the World Cup at the end of the year so the season is not over by a long way. Those are the times when you want to be peaking but now I've got to get my season going again by playing regularly.”

Gatland has been eager to get some key individuals back playing and expressed his delight last week after Halfpenny and fellow Lion Jamie Roberts returned for the Blues.

“It's nice to think they haven't forgotten about me but now it's up to me to prove that I'm still worthy of the jersey and that starts with the Blues,” added Halfpenny.

“It was obviously frustrating to see someone else get the jersey but in fairness to George North, he really took his chance well.

“I was in a similar situation two years ago, when I had my opportunity following a few injuries to other players and I did everything I could to make the most of the chance.

“Now it means there's even more competition for places with everyone pushing each other hard. That can only be a good thing for individuals and Wales but I know I've got a lot of hard work between now and the World Cup if I'm going to play.”

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