Leigh Halfpenny Opens Up On His Contract Situation Over The Summer
Leigh Halfpenny has opened up about his difficult contract situation this summer.
The Welsh fullback was left without a club, after finding out while on tour with the Lions that his contract with the French giants was no longer being renewed.
Speaking to WalesOnline, Halfpenny admits it was tough, and that he was hugely surprised when he found out Toulon were no longer interested in retaining his services.
“I won’t lie, it was tough,” said Halfpenny
“To be told in the summer there wasn’t an option for me to go back to Toulon…. I had to reassess my options and from being told that, I knew I wanted to come back to Wales. It felt like the right option.
“It was a huge surprise.”
Halfpenny says he had a clause in his contract to leave for the Lions should Toulon make the Top 14 final. With Halfpenny playing a pivotal role in both the quarter and semi-final, Toulon owner Mourad Boudjellal clearly had a change of heart, especially with Toulon losing to Clermont narrowly without Halfpenny.
“If Toulon made the Top14 final and with the Lions going away to New Zealand… if was selected I could potentially miss the final if Toulon made it.
“My contract when I first signed there was a two plus one (years), for that third year option I was able to negotiate a release in the contract that if I was selected for the Lions I was able to go with the Lions.
“It was tough. You play all season with your club and the boys get to the final and then you have to leave them for the club’s biggest game of the season.”
The fullback however, has no regrets as it was his only chance to tour New Zealand with the Lions. To make matters even worse, a contract had been agreed just after the Top 14 semi-final for Halfpenny to remain on for one more year, only for the rugged to be pulled from underneath him.
“Everyone was aware of the Lions and for me to go on a Lions tour to New Zealand is just the pinnacle of a rugby player’s career.
“For me that would be the only opportunity I would get to tour with the Lions in NZ, I felt I had to take that opportunity.
“I had the release so I felt there wasn’t a problem there.
“I had agreed a long time ago to stay at Toulon for one more season, but for whatever reason there were delays, delays, delays, to the point where before the (Top 14) semi-final where everything had been agreed and it was just a case of signing the contract. But it never came through.
“Then, I found out in New Zealand that there wasn’t an option for me.
“It has been extremely tough.
“It was tough having to watch the final and not be there, of course, but you are on a Lions tour and that is so special.
“Then to have that news… you have to focus on playing on a Lions tour, which is every player’s dream and a goal I set from the very off.
“I wanted to give that everything, I still focused on the tour, but the speculation and everything that came with it was tough to deal with.”
After weeks of speculation, Halfpenny eventually signed for the Scarlets, and he feels like made the right decision.
“After the tour, having to look at my options, I only wanted to come back to Wales and the Scarlets felt like the right decision,” he said
“It is very exciting to be looking forward to going out and pulling on the Scarlets jersey and getting the season off to a good start.”