Halfpenny: Time to put down a marker

Leigh Halfpenny has warned that Wales will need "to be on the money for 80 minutes" this weekend in their pursuit of a prize that has eluded them for six painful years.

Wales have not beaten a southern hemisphere giant – Australia, New Zealand or South Africa – since November 2008, a run of 20 successive defeats.

Nine of those losses were against today’s opponents Australia, and five times Wales went down to defeat by four points or less, reeling from such agonising setbacks as 20-19, 25-23 and 14-12.

The countries’ latest meeting – it will be played on a new £3.1million hybrid Millennium Stadium pitch – is given added significance by them being drawn together in next year’s World Cup pool stages alongside host nation England. Only two teams will secure quarter-final places.

While that Twickenham World Cup clash between Wales and the Wallabies is still 11 months away, full-back star Halfpenny accepts that now is the time to put down a marker.

“We are striving to be the best in the world, and to be that you have got to beat the best. Saturday is an opportunity to do that,” said Halfpenny, who has lost eight times in Wales colours against Australia, but beaten them twice with the British and Irish Lions.

“We know it’s going to be a challenge, but one we are very much looking forward to and one where we are determined to come away with the win.

“Obviously, with the World Cup around the corner and Australia being in our group, to get a win over them would be huge for us.

Halfpenny is poised to make his first Wales appearance since suffering a serious shoulder injury during last season’s RBS 6 Nations defeat against England and his relentless goal-kicking accuracy – he needs five points to reach 400 for Wales – is likely to be required again today in a game that many pundits believe is too close to call.

He has stepped up to the plate numerous times for Wales and the Lions, but behind that unflappable exterior and the exemplary kicking routine moulded by Wales’ record international points scorer and current national squad skills coach Neil Jenkins, lies Halfpenny’s own method of dealing with acute pressure.

“I have worked a long time with Neil. He has brought through from the academies right up to international level, and we have found a way that suits me,” Halfpenny said.

“Believe me, inside, my heart is thumping like mad.


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