Scarlets coach Wayne Pivac has shared why Leigh Halfpenny opted to join the Welsh club, citing a desire to improve his attacking game as the main reason for his move to the Pro12 champions.
The 28-year-old yesterday announced his return to Welsh rugby after joining the Scarlets on a three-year dual contract, which will see the WRU pay 60 per cent of his salary.
Under New Zealander Pivac and former Wales fly-half Stephen Jones, the Scarlets have developed a thrilling brand of attacking rugby which has earned rave reviews from pundits and fans alike.
And in an interview with Scarlets TV, after lauding the former Cardiff Blues back’s defensive qualities and positional play, the Kiwi went on to explain that it was this attacking style of play which attracted the 71-times capped full-back to Parc y Scarlets.
“Leigh is an experienced international rugby player and has played at the highest level for a long time. Defensively, you don’t question him.
“He knows his way around the park, his positional play is fantastic and he’s courageous.
“He wants to add more attack to his game so he’s coming to the Scarlets for the way we play.”
Scarlets and Wales fans will be buoyed by Halfpenny’s desire to improve his attacking game, as the last three years or so have undoubtedly seen this part of his game go backwards. His lack of an attacking threat is illustrated by the fact that he hasn’t scored a try for Wales since 2013 and has only scored four times in 47 starts at 15 for the national team.
The attacking ability is definitely there, highlighted by the way he burst onto the scene with the Blues as a winger, with his pace and side-step causing opposition defences plenty of problems. And eleven tries in his first eleven matches for Wales on the wing, reflecting his attacking prowess.
And the two-time Lions tourist has also shown glimpses in the past of his attacking ability from 15 for his former side the Blues as well as for Wales while cutting some lovely angles for the Lions back in 2013.
But his time in France with Toulon, not a team known for their attacking style of play, had a negative impact on this area of his game, with his problems in attack seeping into his game with Wales as well. He began to go into his shell when it came to attack, choosing the safe option first, rather than having a go with ball in hand.
Acknowledging that Toulon and also Wales’ style of play hadn’t helped the Gorseinon-product flourish in attack, Pivac shared about Wales coach Warren Gatland’s desire to see him improve this part of his game and that he and his coaching staff would be doing everything they could to make this happen,
“It’s probably the way that teams he’s been involved in have played, both in France and with Wales.
“I know Warren is keen to add the attack to his game and we’ll certainly be doing our best to help him with that.”
Wales and Scarlets fans will be eagerly awaiting Pivac and Jones working their magic on their talented new signing.
Hefin Jones, Pundit Arena