Leigh Halfpenny Officially Confirms Toulon Switch from Cardiff Blues

Michael Wade@michaelwade_Analyst IIIJanuary 23, 2014

Leigh Halfpenny in action for Wales.
Leigh Halfpenny in action for Wales.Alastair Grant/Associated Press

Cardiff Blues have confirmed that Leigh Halfpenny will join Toulon when his contract expires at the end of this season.

The news was confirmed on Cardiff's official website and also via Twitter:

Wales international Halfpenny, 25, is one of the hottest properties in rugby union after winning the Six Nations Player of the Tournament award in 2013 and also Player of the Series in the British and Irish Lions 2013 tour of Australia, where he started all three tests.

And after making his competitive debut for Cardiff in 2008, he has gone on to make 87 appearances, scoring 568 points across seven seasons.

The defending Heineken Cup champions are looking for a long-term replacement for Jonny Wilkinson, who is expected to extend his stay with the club next season.

And although, per BBC Sport, the Blues and the Welsh Rugby Union have reportedly offered a contract to Halfpenny, the offer from Toulon is understood to be in the region of £400,000 per year.

Blues chief executive Richard Holland said on the club's official site that the current state of Welsh rugby is to blame for Halfpenny's decision to move:

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.

Halfpenny is one of 13 high-profile Welsh players who have decided they are better off plying their trade outside of the country, with many of them playing in France, including Wales teammate Ian Evans, who will also join Toulon next season.

In order to reverse this trend, Welsh rugby must employ an overhaul of their club structure. The talent is there, with Wales winning their 26th Six Nations championship in 2013 and also making the last four of the 2011 Rugby World Cup.

But until the state of the domestic club game is rethought, the best players will continue to move in order for a higher level of competition and better chance of making money.