In-demand British and Irish Lions star Leigh Halfpenny set to be tempted by lucrative French offers - Club Rugby - Rugby Union - The Independent

In-demand British and Irish Lions star Leigh Halfpenny set to be tempted by lucrative French offers

Cardiff Blues fight for Lions' man of series but will struggle to see off Top 14 clubs

British and Irish Lions hero Leigh Halfpenny could be the latest big name lured to France. No sooner had the victorious Lions returned to a rapturous welcome home than the race to sign British rugby's hottest property began.

France's leading clubs, with the financial clout to out-muscle any British rival, are set to test the precarious economics in Welsh rugby with a move for the man of the series against Australia.

Halfpenny arrived home to jubilant scenes at Heathrow along with the rest of the squad which clinched the Lions' first series win in 16 years.

No doubt many of the players will return to the airport in the coming days for a well-earned holiday, though behind the scenes, clubs, executives and agents are already busying themselves over contracts and fees. Such is the impact of a winning Lions tour.

Top of the list is Halfpenny, the diminutive 24-year-old from Gorseinon, near Swansea, whose herculean performances Down Under, including a record 21-point haul in the decisive third Test in Sydney, have left him standing tall in the rugby world. Coming after he was named Six Nations' player of the tournament, there are few players who will be more sought after in the coming months.

Clermont Auvergne have tracked Halfpenny as successor to Lee Byrne for the past year while Top 14 rivals European champions Toulon and big-spending Racing Métro 92 are also lining up offers.

Paris-based Racing will already boast an impressive trophy cabinet of Lions next season having signed Halfpenny's Cardiff Blues team-mate Jamie Roberts, flanker Dan Lydiate as well as Ireland fly-half Jonathan Sexton, who will become the highest-paid player in France with a two-year contract understood to be worth £1.2m. Such is the concern at Cardiff that chief executive Richard Holland flew to Australia to open talks with Halfpenny, as well as skipper Sam Warburton, who will both be free agents next summer when their contracts expire.

Holland said: "Whether or not Leigh will stay I don't know but he's a Welsh lad and we're hoping he will commit to the Blues.

"We have already had discussions and we will be working hard with Leigh to lock him into the Blues for the foreseeable future.

"We are extremely proud of the achievements of all our Lions. Leigh must be the only candidate for the IRB's World Player of the Year after destroying Australia.

"Now we are going to do everything in our power to secure his services. We're trying to put together, within our means, a package which will enable Leigh to stay at the Arms Park and in Welsh rugby."

At Heathrow, Warburton said he hoped his Cardiff team-mate stayed at the club. "I know the WRU and the regions are working very hard to keep players in Wales so hopefully that's the case with Leigh as he's a top-class player," said the Lions captain. "Leigh Halfpenny's been playing world-class rugby now for two or three years in my opinion.

"It doesn't surprise me that he's having the success he's having now: he's the best professional I know. Time will tell, but his contract's got another year with the Blues and I look forward to playing with him for another 12 months."

He added, reflecting on the series win: "It's a great feeling. This Lions tour has been a long time coming so it is nice to come back with a trophy.

"It has only been done a dozen times in 125 years so all the players know they are part of a very prestigious group and are very proud of that.

"It won't sink in for a long time. It feels quite surreal being part of a Lions touring party because I never thought I would be in this situation four years later. Maybe in a few months – or years – I might watch back a DVD and realise what we achieved."

News
Paper trail: the wedding photograph found in the rubble after 9/11 – it took Elizabeth Keefe 13 years to find the people in it
newsWho are the people in this photo? It took Elizabeth Stringer Keefe 13 years to find out
Arts and Entertainment
Evil eye: Douglas Adams in 'mad genius' pose
booksNew biography sheds light on comic genius of Douglas Adams
Sport
FootballFull debuts don't come much more stylish than those on show here
News
i100
PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Life and Style
Kim Kardashian drawn backlash over her sexy swimsuit selfie, called 'disgusting' and 'nasty'
fashionCritics say magazine only pays attention to fashion trends among rich, white women
Arts and Entertainment
TVShows like Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D are little more than marketing tools
Arts and Entertainment
Hit the roof: hot-tub cinema east London
architectureFrom pools to football pitches, rooftop living is looking up
Travel
travel
News
The ecological reconstruction of Ikrandraco avatar is shown in this illustration courtesy of Chuang Zhao. Scientists on September 11, 2014 announced the discovery of fossils in China of a type of flying reptile called a pterosaur that lived 120 millions years ago and so closely resembled those creatures from the 2009 film, Avatar that they named it after them.
SCIENCE
Life and Style
tech
Arts and Entertainment
Matisse: The Cut-Outs exhibition attracted 562,000 visitors to the Tate Modern from April to September
art
Life and Style
Models walk the runway at the Tom Ford show during London Fashion Week Spring Summer 2015
fashionLondon Fashion Week 2014
News
Kenny G
news
News
peopleThe black actress has claimed police mistook her for a prostitute when she kissed her white husband
Life and Style
techIndian model comes with cricket scores baked in
Caption competition
Caption competition
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Daily Quiz
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

Career Services

Day In a Page

Mystery of the Ground Zero wedding photo

A shot in the dark

Mystery of the wedding photo from Ground Zero
His life, the universe and everything

His life, the universe and everything

New biography sheds light on comic genius of Douglas Adams
Save us from small screen superheroes

Save us from small screen superheroes

Shows like Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D are little more than marketing tools
Reach for the skies

Reach for the skies

From pools to football pitches, rooftop living is looking up
These are the 12 best hotel spas in the UK

12 best hotel spas in the UK

Some hotels go all out on facilities; others stand out for the sheer quality of treatments
These Iranian-controlled Shia militias used to specialise in killing American soldiers. Now they are fighting Isis, backed up by US airstrikes

Widespread fear of Isis is producing strange bedfellows

Iranian-controlled Shia militias that used to kill American soldiers are now fighting Isis, helped by US airstrikes
Topshop goes part Athena poster, part last spring Prada

Topshop goes part Athena poster, part last spring Prada

Shoppers don't come to Topshop for the unique
How to make a Lego masterpiece

How to make a Lego masterpiece

Toy breaks out of the nursery and heads for the gallery
Meet the ‘Endies’ – city dwellers who are too poor to have fun

Meet the ‘Endies’ – city dwellers who are too poor to have fun

Urbanites are cursed with an acronym pointing to Employed but No Disposable Income or Savings
Paisley’s decision to make peace with IRA enemies might remind the Arabs of Sadat

Ian Paisley’s decision to make peace with his IRA enemies

His Save Ulster from Sodomy campaign would surely have been supported by many a Sunni imam
'She was a singer, a superstar, an addict, but to me, her mother, she is simply Amy'

'She was a singer, a superstar, an addict, but to me, her mother, she is simply Amy'

Exclusive extract from Janis Winehouse's poignant new memoir
Is this the role to win Cumberbatch an Oscar?

Is this the role to win Cumberbatch an Oscar?

The Imitation Game, film review
England and Roy Hodgson take a joint step towards redemption in Basel

England and Hodgson take a joint step towards redemption

Welbeck double puts England on the road to Euro 2016
Relatives fight over Vivian Maier’s rare photos

Relatives fight over Vivian Maier’s rare photos

Pictures removed from public view as courts decide ownership
‘Fashion has to be fun. It’s a big business, not a cure for cancer’

‘Fashion has to be fun. It’s a big business, not a cure for cancer’

Donatella Versace at New York Fashion Week