Halfpenny takes Six Nations award

Welsh fullback gains 40% of public vote in poll

Wales fullback Leigh Halfpenny with his trophy after being named   Six Nations player of the championship. Photograph: Michael Steele/Getty Images

Wales fullback Leigh Halfpenny with his trophy after being named Six Nations player of the championship. Photograph: Michael Steele/Getty Images

Fri, Mar 22, 2013, 17:58

Wales fullback Leigh Halfpenny has won this season’s Six Nations player of the championship award.

Halfpenny, who scored 74 points in the competition as Wales successfully defended the title, was a clear victor.

He gained 40 per cent of the public vote, putting him well clear of runner-up, Italy flanker Alessandro Zanni, with Scotland fullback Stuart Hogg third, competition organisers announced.

More than 80,000 people voted after a 15-player shortlist was compiled through a mixture of technical statistics and supporter opinion on social media sites.

Cardiff Blues star Halfpenny is a firm favourite to be the British and Irish Lions fullback against Australia this summer.

And he now follows his Wales colleague Dan Lydiate, who took the top Six Nations individual award last season.

“I can’t thank the people who voted for me enough,” Halfpenny, 24, said. “It’s a real honour and privilege, and I am overwhelmed to be in among the players shortlisted.

“It’s the icing on the cake of an exceptional year for Wales, and it is a privilege to be part of such an exceptional group of people.

“For my name to be added to the list of players who have won this award in the past is incredible and extremely humbling.”

Halfpenny was presented with his trophy in Cardiff today, less than a week after Wales secured the Six Nations crown with a record 30-3 victory over Grand Slam-chasing England at the Millennium Stadium.

“It has been an unbelievable week,” he added. “It can’t get any better for me. To top off such an amazing day as last Saturday by winning this is huge.

“The atmosphere in the stadium was unbelievable. Singing the anthem is something that I will never forget, and the fans were outstanding, as they have been home and away during the tournament.

“As players, the squad showed immense character and gained confidence throughout the tournament, and against England everything came together and clicked. It was a great performance and the best game I have been involved in.”

Wales’ interim head coach Rob Howley, meanwhile, paid a glowing tribute to Halfpenny.

“Leigh is fearless, courageous and is one of the best fullbacks in world rugby. He can be very proud of his performances throughout the championship,” Howley said.

“He constantly strives for perfection in his preparation and performance, and he sets high standards.

“He is a model professional in every facet of the game, and I am delighted for him. His contribution to the side has been huge.”