Halfpenny copied Lions great

If 2009 tourist Leigh Halfpenny boots Wales to Grand Slam glory he will owe a small debt of gratitude to Lions legend Jonny Wilkinson. [more]

Halfpenny copied Lions great

If 2009 tourist Leigh Halfpenny boots Wales to Grand Slam glory he will owe a small debt of gratitude to Lions legend Jonny Wilkinson.

Halfpenny, a Lion in South Africa three-years ago, is aiming to follow in the foot-steps of his boyhood hero by firing his country to a Six Nations clean-sweep against France at the Millennium Stadium on Saturday.

The full-back with a siege-gun boot grew up studying the England World Cup winner's flawless technique and is equally meticulous in his preparation.

"Growing up I always looked up to Jonny Wilkinson simply because he was the best and a model professional," said the Wales star.

"I bought all of his books and DVDs to study his technique. I used to read about how professional he was, going out training on Christmas day and not drinking alcohol – I thought that's the guy I want to look up to.

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"Most of my technique is my own but there are parts I have grown with from copying Wilkinson. I remember warming up before the Amlin Cup final with Toulon in 2008 and wondering if he was watching and thinking I had pinched his style!"
Halfpenny admits he was haunted by his fatal World Cup semi-final miss against France but insists he has already banished the demons.

But five months on the Cardiff Blues maestro, who has already racked up 55 Championship points, has no worries about stepping up to the tee.

He exorcised his ghosts with the last-minute winner against Ireland, to put Wales on the path to a third Grand Slam in eight seasons.

Now he aims to complete the job at the Millennium Stadium.

"From the moment I missed against France I said 'the next opportunity I get like that I will kick it'. It went through my head every single day," added Halfpenny.

"That's why getting that kick against Ireland was the best feeling ever – after all the hard work and sacrifice I made growing up and that feeling after missing at the World Cup.

"But I have drawn the line already. It's new day, a new tournament and the fact it's France does not come into it. We have a chance to make history."

And if Halfpenny inspires Wales to the Grand Slam glory he will be written alongside 1950 Lions tourist Lewis Jones in Gorseinon rugby folklore.

Jones, another mercurial full-back, won two Slams before he was 19-years-old and the Swansea Valley village's clubhouse is named in his honour.

Halfpenny is thrilled to be compared to the Gorseinon great but he will hand his golden boots to his grandfather Malcolm if he kicks Wales to victory.

"Lewis Jones is the biggest name to come out of Gorseinon and the club is named after him," added Halfpenny.

"I have a long way to go before I get a bar named after me but maybe I can ask for a suite if we get the win.

"To be spoke about in the same breath as him is a real honour and if we win the Grand Slam the bar will certainly be drunk dry!

"I'll be wearing the same boots as I've worn all Championship. I had them new for the Six Nations and if we win I'll probably give them to my granddad for all the commitment he has shown. He was the one taking me down the club to kick every day after school as I was growing up."

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