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Crusaders coach’s verdict on Leigh Halfpenny’s possible switch from fullback

By Finn Morton
Leigh Halfpenny - PA

Don’t expect to see legendary Wales fullback Leigh Halfpenny running around with the Crusaders’ iconic No. 10 jersey on his back in Super Rugby Pacific next season.

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The former British and Irish Lion has penned a one-year deal with the serial Super Rugby champions, but there are still questions that remain unanswered about Halfpenny’s place in the squad.

As an experienced campaigner with nothing left to prove, Halfpenny has embarked on a new challenge down south – but it’s hard to see the Welshman starting at fullback.

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All Black Will Jordan is expected to hold down the fort as the Crusaders’ first-choice fullback as they usher in a new dawn, but there could still be room for Halfpenny in the starting side.

“Fullback is where I play, where I enjoy playing. But wherever I get the opportunity to put the jersey on, I’m happy” Halfpenny told reporters after signing with the club.

“To play 10 and challenge myself there would be exciting as well, and I certainly would be welcome to that opportunity if it presented itself.”

It’s a positional move that would capture the intrigue of rugby fans around the world. Halfpenny has always been a fullback, so it’d be interesting to see the Test centurion mix things up in 2024.

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But it doesn’t look like it’ll happen. Halfpenny is unlikely to follow in the footsteps of rugby giants Andrew Mehrtens, Dan Carter and Richie Mo’unga as the leading playmaker for the Crusaders.

It’s not why coach Rob Penney “picked him.”

“I’ve never seen him do that, that’s not why we’ve picked him,” Penney said, as reported by Newshub. “We’ve got really capable inside back cover.

“We wouldn’t envisage him having to play there. He’s come here with a specific job in mind around a bit of extra maturity and cover in the backfield, and supporting the growth and development of some of those younger players.

“He can play more than one position but we’re really looking at him as a 15.

“I’m very excited about the growth of Taha and Rivez and then Ferg [Fergus Burke] is coming on the scene a bit later on.”

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Former All Blacks playmaker Richie Mo’unga has possibly played his final game for the Crusaders after signing a lucrative deal in Japan with Toshiba Brave Lupus.

Mo’unga, who started at flyhalf for New Zealand in last month’s Rugby World Cup final, has been integral to the Crusaders’ dynastic run of success under former coach Scott Robertson.

But a new dawn awaits. With new boss Rob Penney at the helm, the Crusaders are looking to continue their unparalleled success without the likes of Mo’unga.

“You can look at, I guess, the last 15 or so years, there’s a ‘before Richie’, there’s now going to be an ‘after Richie,'” Penney explained. “We hope the ‘after Richie’ is consistent with the ‘during Richie.’

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“Our job is to try to mitigate the loss, promote the next wave and make sure the environment is such that people feel as though they’re not burdened with the role they’re provided with, and that people around them understand their role in supporting the pivotal position that it is.

“If we can do those things, the team will be successful on the back of it. The way the Crusaders operate historically, and I don’t see that changing, it’s a heavily player-led environment.

“Those mature players that have been around and had success, they’ll continue to lead and provide support for whoever’s wearing the 10 jersey.”

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Comments

10 Comments
B
Bryan 218 days ago

Talented player gets an opportunity to play a bit of Super Rugby. Good on him for giving it a shot

P
Pecos 218 days ago

“Mitigate the loss & promote the new wave” explains why the likes of Crotty & Halfpenny are there. Makes perfect sense. It also hints towards an ever so slight rebuilding focus rather than an 8-peat one. Understandable. Looking forward to the young 10s locking into the Crusaders way. Exciting stuff really.

J
Jon 218 days ago

Shows you how much the South knows about the North. I would have thought he’d have at least some experience, even as in a dual playmaker role, to fill some of the quality work needed at 10.

Is his tactical kicking not upto the same standard as his place kicking then? What about offensively?

The two new young fellas are not yet upto the international SR level just yet i don’t think, nor even do i have a lot of confidence in Burkes developmental direction. Leigh was obviously brought in as cover for the extended periods that Will will be out for recovery, and even though he he essentially paying the Crusaders for this sabbatical chance in SR, he is also probably still a level above Will’s first choice backup. We’re ever he gets used i think he’ll be valuable, but 10 is the spot age wise that is free. And as all the 10s have spent large amounts of time at the back, being more runners than kickers, it would also make a lot of sense educationally.

D
Diarmid 219 days ago

So basically, a journalist asks a fullback who has never played fly half if he is a fly half and he says “no, I'm a fullback” and then a journalist asks the fullback’s coach if the fullback is a fly half and the coach says “no, he’s a fullback”. Great story.

D
DCS125 219 days ago

I’d say NZ is desperate . Great player Halfpenny, but why do we not have his type of kicker in NZ?.

I think NZ rugby should be ashamed of themselves. Sold out they did, they keep selling our players, but the biggest disaster of all was losing SA sides from Super Rugby, that right their, NZ, Is the start of NZRU decline, proper time.

Brits should not have any say in our rugby in NZ, but they obviously do, as the Pakeha are running it. Time for you to retire and get lost.

G
G 219 days ago

Not always a fullback. He used to play on the wing.

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