Halfpenny leaves Toulon in dual Scarlets-Wales deal

 Leigh Halfpenny (Getty)
Leigh Halfpenny (Getty)

London - Wales international fullback Leigh Halfpenny on Thursday left French giants Toulon to sign a three-year dual contract with the Welsh Rugby Union and Scarlets.

The 28-year-old, who has 71 caps and made three British and Irish Lions tours, spent three seasons in France but now returns to his home country where he previously played with Cardiff Blues between 2008-2014.

"I'm delighted to be coming back to play in Wales," said Halfpenny. "I would like to thank the Scarlets and the WRU for giving me the opportunity to sign a National Dual Contract (NDC) and can't wait to get started."

Wales coach Warren Gatland hailed the move as a major step forward for the health of the national team just two years out from the next World Cup.

"It is great news for Welsh rugby that Leigh Halfpenny is returning to play his rugby in Wales," said Gatland.

"The NDC system helps us to bring these players back and I look forward to seeing him play for the Scarlets."

Those sentiments were endorsed by WRU chief executive, Martin Phillips.

"I'm delighted that we are able to announce Leigh's return to Wales. His signature rubber stamps our commitment to the game here in Wales by having our best players playing their rugby on home soil which is vital to the future health of our game," said Phillips.

"We have made no secret of that and the importance both on and off the field at regional and national level in Welsh players playing their rugby in Wales."

English clubs Bath and Wasps were also interested in signing Halfpenny, whose contract at Toulon was not going to be renewed.

"Leigh joining is great news for the club, the supporters, the team and the region as a whole," said Scarlets boss Pivac who hopes Halfpenny's capture will help offset the loss of Wales flyer Liam Williams, who has left to play for European champions Saracens.

"With the experience of Liam (Williams) and DTH (van der Merwe) moving on at the end of last season we've added some new players to the squad, some exciting young talent, and a guy like Leigh brings a lot of experience to the squad that he will share with those young players.

"It has worked out really well and we look forward to welcoming Leigh and he's really excited to be joining the Scarlets because of the way we play the game."

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