IT says much about the dedication of Leigh Halfpenny that the headline of a pre-season interview with the Wales full-back is that he didn’t practice his kicking once during a five-week summer break.
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In the build-up to the all-conquering Six Nations campaign earlier this year, the 23-year-old told how, even on Christmas Day, he spent an hour or so at his local rugby club, Gorseinon, aiming shots at a lonely set of posts.
But after a rugby treadmill that didn’t halt for over a year and took in a World Cup semi-final, a Grand Slam, a summer tour to Australia, the usual regional commitments, and, of course, daily kicking workouts, Halfpenny decided some downtime was in order.
“I took the full five weeks off and felt I needed that,” he explained as we met up during a break in what he says has so far been a Blues pre-season of jolting intensity.
“I relaxed and switched off in a way I am not able to do during the season. I spent some time with mates doing other things.
“It was a long season and with kicking comes a lot of pressure and stress. You need time away from it just to get your hunger and drive going again.
“The hard work starts again now and I’ll be putting plenty of time in, though it takes a week or so to get your rhythm going again.
“This is going to be another long season with all the things that lie ahead.”
Arguably the standout Welsh player of the 3-0 series defeat to the Wallabies in June, Halfpenny will begin this coming campaign inked in as the national side’s first choice full-back.
His assuredness and deadly goalkicking as the last line of defence made him look at times like a seasoned veteran of the No.15 jersey Down Under, rather than someone who has yet to play a full season there.
If the former Ospreys academy player can maintain such form he will almost certainly finish 2012-13 with a second Lions tour, to go with the truncated role he played in South Africa in 2009.
However Halfpenny admitted that his first task is to play a part in helping Wales bounce back from their failures against the Wallabies, saying that the tourists only had themselves to blame for coming home with nothing.