x Abu Dhabi, UAEFriday 21 July 2017

Leigh Halfpenny happy to take on kicking role for Wales

The full-back is ready to take the responsibility if he is asked to take centre-stage against Six Nations opponents Scotland in Cardiff.

Leigh Halfpenny kicks the winning penalty against Ireland last Sundayfor Wales. He may kick again today against Scotland.
Leigh Halfpenny kicks the winning penalty against Ireland last Sundayfor Wales. He may kick again today against Scotland.

Leigh Halfpenny readily admits that goalkicking is a "hero or zero" occupation. But the Wales full-back is ready to take the responsibility if he is asked to take centre-stage against Six Nations opponents Scotland in Cardiff today.

The Cardiff Blues player displayed mastery of his nerves in Dublin last weekend, booting an 80th-minute penalty that gave Wales a 23-21 victory over Ireland and set them up for a Six Nations title challenge this season.

Halfpenny took over the kicking duties from the fly-half Rhys Priestland, who twice hit the post from short range and lost the job of front-line marksman.

It is not known if Priestland will reclaim the role today, or whether Wales decide to pin their faith on Halfpenny, whose eight points in Dublin were decisive.

"No matter how much I tried to think it was just a normal kick, my heart was racing like mad," said Halfpenny, of his winning kick. "But I just tried to go through the same routine I do with every kick and put myself back in Gorseinon, where I practise.

"When I looked up to see it going through the sticks I was chuffed to bits. You can be the hero or the zero as the kicker.

"But that is why I love the job, and last Sunday is what makes all the hard work worthwhile. The feeling after that kick was one of the best I've ever had."

Halfpenny previously had been used by Wales only as a long-range kicking specialist, but he now does the job regularly for the Blues. It would be no shock to see him retained ahead of Priestland.

"I haven't had any news yet," Halfpenny said. "I haven't spoken to anyone about it and I haven't been told anything.

"If Rhys is given the kicking, he has got my 100 per cent backing and support."

For Scotland, Duncan Weir, hopes to make his debut against Wales. The 20-year-old Glasgow Warriors fly-half certainly has plenty of confidence after being named among the replacements as Scotland prepare to usher in a new era of playmakers following the retirement of Dan Parks.

The Edinburgh scrum-half turned fly-half Greig Laidlaw is set to start at No 10, with Weir his understudy on the bench after impressing at club rugby.

Weir said: "When the World Cup was on there was an opportunity there to really stamp my place down at Glasgow.

"At the start of the season I thought I could nail down the Glasgow 10 shirt, play in a few big games, get more experience and enjoy my time on the pitch. I've felt I've done that and my chance has come to wiggle my way into the Scotland squad.

* Agencies

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