Cardiff Blues have confirmed that Leigh Halfpenny will leave the region to join French side Toulon at the end of the season. While the move had been widely rumoured, this is the first time it has been officially confirmed.
Halfpenny, who has 48 caps for Wales and three for the Lions, has made 87 appearances for the province since making his debut in May 2008, racking up 568 points in the process.
Richard Holland, Chief Executive at the Blues, said: “Retaining Leigh has been one of our highest priorities and we have done all we can in our power as a region and business to try and facilitate that.
“His outstanding performances for Blues, Wales and the Lions have made him one of the most prized players in world rugby. We put our very best offer on the table but he has been the target of a major European club with significant resources that we simply cannot compete with at this current time.
“Leigh has been a fantastic servant to the Blues and I know how hard a decision this has been for him. He has been presented with a tremendous opportunity to play overseas and feels this is the right move at this stage in his career. He will go with our very best wishes for success with his new club.
“Given the current uncertainty over the competitions the regions are playing in next season and revenues attached to that, it is understandable why players are looking elsewhere,” he added.
“The threat to Welsh rugby and our ability to keep top players in Wales is highlighted by the fact the French game is underpinned by broadcast revenues that dwarf anything we receive from our domestic league.
“We need to be able to compete and have meaningful competitions that will increase funding into Welsh rugby. It’s not surprising that Welsh players would choose the certainty of strong weekly French competitions over the uncertainty of the weekly club competition in Wales.
“The future of the game in Wales must be sorted out now – this situation simply cannot be allowed to continue.”
Phil Davies, Director of Rugby, said: “Leigh is one of the most professional and dedicated players I have ever worked with and a proven match winner. His mental strength sets him apart from others.
“His development from the age grade system through to international honours is testament the career pathway we have here at Blues and I look forward to seeing the next generation now follow his lead to the top of the game.
“We wish him all the very best for his career overseas from the end of this season. I know he will be determined to finish strongly with Blues and the door will also be open to his return.”
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