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Leigh Halfpenny signs for Toulon as Cardiff admit defeat

Blues admit that they “simply cannot compete” as Toulon confirm full-back’s capture.

Halfpenny: Cardiff lose
Halfpenny: Cardiff lose "one of the most prized players in world rugby."
Image: David Davies/PA Archive/Press Association Images

Updated 16.45

LEIGH HALFPENNY WILL join the Welsh exodus to France next season after signing for Top 14 giants Toulon.

The full-back will link up with former England international Jonny Wilkinson and Springbok star Bryan Habana after he agreed an initial two-year deal with an optional extra year.

Previous reports pitched Halfpenny’s salary at £395,000 per year.

Pre-empting the news, Cardiff Blues chief executive Richard Holland said they had done everything in their power to keep Halfpenny, the Player of the Series in last summer’s Lions win against Australia.

“His outstanding performances for Blues, Wales and the Lions have made him one of the most prized players in world rugby,” Holland said.

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.”

Holland also said that the increasing uncertainty about the future of the Welsh regions had weakened their hand when it came to keeping their biggest names.

“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.

– First posted 15.54

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Niall Kelly

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