Stephen Leigh Halfpenny (born 22 December 1988) is a Wales and British Lions international rugby union player. Halfpenny is the third highest record points scorer for Wales after Neil Jenkins and Stephen Jones. He currently plays club rugby for French club Toulon in the Top 14.
A winger or fullback, he was signed as a youth by the Ospreys and played the 2005–06 season with the Ospreys U18s. Halfpenny then trained with Neath RFC during the 2006–07 season, before signing for the Cardiff Blues and spending the whole 2007-08 season playing for feeder club Cardiff RFC, before making his regional debut against Ulster at the Ravenhill Stadium in May 2008, scoring three conversions in the 17–26 victory.
On 18 April 2009, Halfpenny scored two tries for the Cardiff Blues in the final of the EDF Energy Cup, a 50–12 win over Gloucester at Twickenham. In January 2014 Halfpenny announced that he would be leaving the Blues at the end of the 2013–14 Season after signing a two-year deal with French giants Toulon. He did not get to complete the 2013/14 season due to receiving a dislocated shoulder in the RBS 6 Nations match against England. Thus his final match with the Blues was against Exeter Chiefs on 18 January, where the Blues lost 13-19. Halfpenny contributed a conversion and two penalties to the game.
On 16 September 2014, Toulon president Mourad Boudjellal said that he may terminate Halfpenny's contract due to reoccurring injury problems, though this was later resolved. Halfpenny finally made his Toulon debut on 12 October 2014, two months after the start of the Top 14 season.
As a former Wales Under 20 international, he was selected in October 2008 for the Wales national rugby union team squad for the 2008 Autumn internationals series. Halfpenny made his debut for Wales aged 19 in their first game of the autumn internationals against world champions, South Africa on 8 November 2008. He scored his first points for Wales from a penalty kick in the 15–20 loss. He went on to score his first two tries on his second cap against Canada on 14 November.
He was chosen as a starting number 14 for Wales's 2009 Six Nations game against Scotland, on 8 February, and again on 14 February, against rivals England. He scored a try in each match and kicked a penalty against England to add to that. His points proved to be the difference between the two teams. He then played against France in a match that Wales lost 21–16 in Saint-Denis. Warren Gatland then dropped Halfpenny for the 20–15 win over Italy, as Warren Gatland experimented with winger Mark Jones.
On 22 April 2009, Halfpenny was included in the British & Irish Lions squad for the tour to South Africa in May 2009. On the 20 May it was announced that he would miss the start of the Lions tour due to a thigh injury, requiring at least 10–14 days treatment, but he was scheduled once fully fit to rejoin Ian McGeechan's squad in South Africa. He was confirmed to have linked up with the Lions squad, fully recovered, in South Africa on 2 June and played in the tour match against Free State Cheetahs on 6 June. However, on 10 June it was confirmed that Halfpenny had withdrawn from the Lions squad due to a recurrence of the thigh injury.
Halfpenny was a key part of the Wales squad for the following two campaigns but he was constantly plagued by injury. Coach Warren Gatland had faith in Halfpenny, and the Blues winger did enough to force his way into the squad for the 2011 World Cup. During the World Cup, Halfpenny impressed in many positions, particularly at full-back. It was also in this game that Halfpenny became first choice kicker, ahead of fly halves Rhys Priestland and James Hook. In the semi final against France, Halfpenny attempted a 47-yard penalty that would have taken Wales to the final. However, the kick fell inches short.
During the 2012 Six Nations, Halfpenny cemented his place at fullback and became one of the standout players of the tournament, finishing as top point scorer of the tournament. Some of his points came at crucial points within the tournament. Down 21-20 to Ireland in the 80th minutes, Halfpenny sent a penalty over to give Wales a 23-21 win over the hosts, and subsequently completed another 4 penalties and a conversion as Wales toppled England. Then, in the final match against France, Wales got a 16-9 win, with Halfpenny converting three further penalties and a conversion.
In the final match of the 2012 Winter Test series against Australia, Halfpenny suffered a neck injury while attempting to stop the winning try. He was taken to hospital but was discharged the next day without any serious damage. Regardless of the Australian try, Halfpenny had already earned the accolade of "Man of the Match".
In the first match of the 2013 Six Nations Championship, Halfpenny scored the 2nd try for Wales in their 22–30 loss to Ireland at the Millennium Stadium. The following week he earned the Man of the Match award when Wales beat France 6–16 in Paris. Again two weeks later in Rome when Wales beat Italy 9–26, he was made Man of the Match by the Italian broadcaster. With over 80,000 people voting between 15 shortlisted 2013 Six Nations players, Halfpenny was also awarded Player of the Tournament, securing 40% of the overall vote.
Halfpenny was selected for the 2013 British and Irish Lions tour to Australia as one of three fullbacks touring along with Stuart Hogg and Rob Kearney. Halfpenny played all three tests, winning player of the series, and breaking the Lions points record held by Neil Jenkins. He also broke the record for most points in one test
In November 2013 Halfpenny was named in a shortlist of five players for the IRB Player of the Year. In December 2013 Halfpenny was selected as BBC Wales Sports Personality of the Year and was runner-up for BBC Sports Personality of the Year to Andy Murray.
In October 2014, Halfpenny was included in the 34-man squad for the 2014 Autumn internationals against Australia, Fiji, New Zealand and South Africa. He scored 27 points during the Autumn series including all 12 of Wales points in a famous win over South Africa, only the second in their history.
In September 2015 he was ruled out of the Rugby World Cup after rupturing an anterior cruciate knee ligament during Wales' 23-19 warm up win over Italy at the Millennium Stadium.
Professional points record
- As of 15 March 2015
|Team||Caps||Tries||Conversions||Penalties||Drop Goals||Total Points|
|British and Irish Lions (Test Matches)||3||0||5||13||0||49|
|British and Irish Lions (Tour Matches)||4||3||16||6||0||65|