Leigh looks to Jenks

Leigh Halfpenny is hoping to follow in the footsteps of mentor Neil Jenkins by booting the British & Irish Lions to glory in Brisbane today. [more]

Leigh looks to Jenks

Leigh Halfpenny is hoping to follow in the footsteps of mentor Neil Jenkins by booting the British & Irish Lions to glory in Brisbane today.

Halfpenny starts the first Test against the Qantas Wallabies at the Suncorp Stadium in the same No 15 shirt that Jenkins wore when kicking a record 41-point haul in the Lions' last series victory over South Africa 16 years ago.

The 24-year-old has worked closely with the Lions kicking coach since he was a teenager and he insists that the continuation of that relationship on tour with the Lions has been crucial to his fine success rate so far.

“Jenks is massive for us as kickers. For me, he has been huge since he picked me up in the academy and I have come right through with him to senior level,” said Halfpenny, who has missed the target just once in 23 shots at goal in Australia.

“He has just been massive for me in terms of my progression through the years…and in preparation for every game. I couldn't think of anyone better to have bringing on the tee for me and giving me little pointers just before the kick. He's huge for me in terms of preparing mentally and technically.

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“He was the best in the world in his day. We speak about memories in the car after kicking sessions now and again…but he is just focussed on getting us kickers prepared for this Saturday.”

Everyone knows just how hard Halfpenny works to hone his kicking skills after hours, but how exactly does he practice to be perfect?

“At the beginning of the week I’ll build up the kicks slowly. The closer I get to a game, the more kicks I take.

“I normally stay out for about 40/45 minutes after a rugby session, with the other kickers, Owen (Farrell), Jonny (Sexton) and Stuart (Hogg), and Jenks stays with us as well.

“I have a set routine for each day throughout the week when I’m preparing for a game. I have kicks from certain spots all over the field.

“If I kick one and it’s successful I move on to the next spot. If I miss one I’ll take one again, and hopefully it will go over. But there’s times when they don’t so if I miss on the second time I’ll move on but I’ll always come back to the spots that I’ve missed.

“Hopefully I don’t have to come back to the spots too often but there are times when I do. But I’ll never leave the field until I’ve kicked a kick from each spot and have been happy with the strike.”

Halfpenny’s efforts from the tee are likely to have a major impact on the outcome of a mouth-watering match up in Queensland’s capital city but the Cardiff Blues and Wales star knows it is not just his right boot that will have to be at its best against Australia.

With cross-code convert Israel Folau expected to pose a huge threat in the air on the Qantas Wallabies’ right wing, Halfpenny will have to be as solid as ever under the high ball in Brisbane.

“I really love every aspect of the role of full back. I love the aerial battle – I see it as a challenge between myself and the guy chasing. The space you have when you receive kicks and being able to counter-attack and come into the line at pace are all things that I enjoy.

"The aerial battle is important in the game and it’s important you execute it as best as possible for your team. Owning the sky, I like to call it. I love it.

“Every time that ball goes in the air, the challenge has been put up there: who is going to collect it? It's going to be massive, and it’s an area we have worked very hard on throughout the week.”

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