Neil Jenkins: Leigh Halfpenny won’t let Ireland off scot-free

Wales' Leigh Halfpenny scores a penalty against Scotland.

Neil Jenkins has assured Joe Schmidt and his Irish team there will be no more dithering from Leigh Halfpenny if he gets the chance to shoot for goal against them next week in the Six Nations battle at the Principality Stadium.

The Toulon full back, who had kicked three out of four attempts in the first half to move to 594 points for Wales, turned down a second-half shot at goal in the defeat to the Scots after his skipper Alun Wyn Jones twice indicated to Irish referee John Lacey that he wanted to go for the points.

At that stage Wales were only trailing 16-13 and Jones wanted to get on level terms. The kick was wide out on the left of the Scottish 22, yet Halfpenny declined the shot.

To make matters worse for Jones, he then conceded a penalty at the 5m line-out after Dan Biggar had kicked to touch. After that, Wales unravelled and went on to lose 29-13 — their second successive defeat in the championship and their first to the Scots since 2007.

Wales failed to score in the second half after going into the break 13-9 ahead and seemingly in control. The fall-out in the wake of the decision not to go for goal has turned the incident into a farce.

Biggar was blamed for seemingly overruling his captain, which he definitely did not do; Jones was portrayed as weak for not sticking to his initial decision; Lacey appears to have been at fault for not forcing Wales to kick for goal, having accepted their first decision; and Halfpenny is in the cart for not being decisive enough.

Former world points record holder Jenkins, who looks after the Welsh kickers, assured everyone that he is still backing Halfpenny to the hilt and doesn’t expect a repeat performance against Ireland or France.

“It is clear Leigh wasn’t decisive enough and didn’t make his intentions clear. He wasn’t grabbing the ball and he has put his hand up to say he wasn’t decisive enough,” said Jenkins.

“He kicked his first one off the touchline in difficult conditions and it surprised everyone when he didn’t want that kick. I was already on the pitch with the kicking tee.

“I don’t know why he didn’t want to take the kick on. A lot of people can point to him dropping a ball and missing a kick earlier on, but I don’t buy that.

“Alun Wyn Jones wanted the three points and, with Leigh having kicked 14 on the bounce in the championship up to his miss just before half-time, I don’t think he has done that before.

“I’m confident it won’t happen again. He has an 88% success rate in the championship, is in the top three goalkickers in the world, and he’ll be ready to roll on Friday against Ireland.”

As for Jones, who took over the Welsh captaincy from the record-breaking Sam Warburton at the start of the Six Nations, he just wants to stop the rot with a win over the Irish next week.

“There is a bit of a subplot to the game because of that incident. I think I was decisive — I indicated to the posts a couple of times and referee agreed with me,” said Jones.

“I am not a kicker, but I thought it was a good shot. Leigh didn’t feel the same way. I have every faith in him because he is a world class kicker and he knows what he can and can’t do.

“The referee had indicated, so I thought we were going to kick anyway. Fortunately we had another option to go for the line-out — which didn’t go well.

“Levelling the scores would have put us in a good place. But that’s all hindsight.”

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