Wales vs Australia: Leigh Halfpenny boosted by Jonny Wilkinson's advice

The Toulon full-back has been working with England's World Cup winner

Click to follow
The Independent Online

Wales’ Leigh Halfpenny has been getting help from the perfect person as he prepares for today’s challenge of laying down a marker to Australia, one of the teams in their World Cup pool.

The Toulon full-back has been working with the World Cup winner Jonny Wilkinson, who retired from playing with the club at the end of last season but has been coaching the backs there.

“There are skill sessions where I work on my passing with him,” says the 25-year-old. “In terms of kicking, I’ve worked with Jonny but I haven’t changed anything. I’ve worked a long time with Neil Jenkins and we have found a way that suits me.”

Even so, just having Wilkinson to call on is a big boost for a man who knows how important his kicking is. “The boys work hard getting the penalties and scoring tries so, as a kicker, you want to reward your team-mates with the extra two or three points they’ve worked hard for,” he says. “It’s huge pressure but, at the same time, it’s a privilege for me.”

And to calm any nerves he has a simple tactic: “I close my eyes and just try to picture myself in the quiet of Gorseinon, who I grew up playing for, and that allows me to be calm.”

So how do Wales go about beating Australia, or to put it another way, avoiding a 10th consecutive defeat to the Wallabies? “It’s about concentration for the full 80,” Halfpeny adds. “In a number of games, Australia have beaten us on the last play so we can’t switch off for one second.

“We have been striving to be the best in the world and, to be that, you have got to beat the best. This is an opportunity to do that. We know it’s going to be a challenge but we are determined to come away with the win. With the World Cup around the corner it’s a huge game.”

Wales Leigh Halfpenny; Alex Cuthbert, George North, Jamie Roberts, Liam Williams; Dan Biggar, Rhys Webb; Taulupe Faletau, Sam Warburton (capt), Dan Lydiate, Alun Wyn Jones, Jake Ball, Samson Lee, Richard Hibbard, Paul James. Replacements Scott Baldwin, Gethin Jenkins, Rhodri Jones, Bradley Davies, Justin Tipuric, Mike Phillips, Rhys Priestland, Cory Allen.