Six Nations: Halfpenny survives ‘test of character’

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MATCH winner Leigh Halfpenny spoke of coming through “a test of character” at Murrayfield on Saturday before killing off Scotland with a barrage of penalties which sent Wales back to Cardiff with hope rising of a second successive RBS Six Nations title.

The diminutive full-back had scored 32 points in three meetings with Scotland and he added another 23 at the weekend, from seven penalties and a conversion, but only after missing three of his first four shots at goal.

“As a kicker, it was probably my toughest challenge, having missed those three kicks,” he said. “One or two of them I hit well enough to go over and then, all of a sudden, the wind caught it.

“It is a test of character when you miss three like that and, I will be honest, I was thinking it could go two ways. It could go really wrong or I could get myself together and go back to basics – and that’s what I did.

“You’ve got to forget what has gone on and just focus on your next kick and try to make sure it is a positive one.

“You go back to your basics, focus on getting a good contact, kicking through the ball and staying upright. Especially in windy conditions, it’s important you get your body through the ball and keep momentum and power. It was 
really tough out there kicking. You would throw a bit of grass up in the air and it would go in a full circle and then land by your feet! But I enjoy kicking and I wanted the responsibility so it wasn’t an option for me to hand over to anyone else.

“The conversion of Richard Hibbard’s try was huge for me. If I had missed that, it could have gone horribly wrong.”

Stuart Lancaster’s England side lead the Six Nations table by two points going into Saturday. However, the fact that England managed to beat Italy by just seven points at Twickenham yesterday will further boost the Welsh camp as, while there is real confidence of beating England in Cardiff, overhauling the points difference was the big concern.

That difference now stands at 14, and while beating the current English side by more – they have conceded an average of just 12 points per game this year – is a significant challenge for a Welsh side not yet firing in attack, Halfpenny believes anything is possible at home.

“It’s Wales versus England – the decider,” he said. “The players will be bouncing off the walls for it! It’s what we have waited for. We’ve been there last year with a championship decider in Cardiff [against France] and it was unbelievable. The streets of Cardiff were rammed and it’s going to be massive again next weekend.”