Wales boss Wayne Pivac says there are no half measures with ton-up Leigh Halfpenny
Wales v Barbarians – International – Principality Stadium
Wales boss Wayne Pivac has hailed Leigh Halfpenny as a “true professional” and shining example to other players ahead of his 100th Test match appearance.
Full-back Halfpenny will clock up three figures – 96 Tests in Wales colours and four for the British and Irish Lions – when he features against Canada on Saturday.
Halfpenny will be joined in the starting XV by two uncapped players – Scarlets wing Tom Rogers and Dragons lock Ben Carter – while three more are on the bench in prop Gareth Thomas, back-row forward Taine Basham and centre Ben Thomas.
“It (100 Tests) is huge for any player,” Pivac said. “In the modern game, with the brutality of the sport and for a guy his size. He is not the biggest bloke, but he looks after himself well.
“It speaks volumes of his professionalism, the way he recovers after each effort, the way he prepares himself mentally and physically for the next challenge.
“He is a good one for these young guys to get alongside in training, to see how a true professional operates, the time he puts into his body and the homework that he does.
“A guy like Tommy Rogers has had a bit to do with Leigh in club football, and with Jonah (Dragons wing Jonah Holmes) as well, who is in good form for his club, it is an exciting back-three.”
Wales are without 10 players on British and Irish Lions duty in South Africa.
That group includes late call-ups Adam Beard and Josh Navidi after captain Alun Wyn Jones and flanker Justin Tipuric suffered tour-ending injuries during the Lions’ victory over Japan three days ago.
Wales’ summer series of games sees them tackling Canada at the Principality Stadium, followed by two matches in Cardiff against Argentina, with crowds of just over 8,000 permitted.
And joining Halfpenny and Davies in providing an experienced edge are the likes of scrum-half Tomos Williams, plus Dragons forwards Elliot Dee, Ross Moriarty and Aaron Wainwright.
On Rogers and Carter, Pivac added: “There were obviously things that we saw in their club game that we liked, and they have progressed well in this environment.
“They have trained well and learned a lot in a short space of time. We think they are good to go.
“With a lot of these players, we don’t just want to see them in a training environment, we want to see them in a Test match. Five of them will get that opportunity this week.”
And Wales will come up against two former members of their coaching staff – Rob Howley and Byron Hayward – this weekend, with both now working for Canada.
Howley, a long-serving member of Warren Gatland’s Wales coaching team, was sent home from the 2019 Rugby World Cup in Japan. He subsequently received an 18-month ban from rugby, half of which was suspended, for breaching betting rules.
Hayward, meanwhile, left his role as Wales defence coach last autumn after working alongside Pivac.
Asked if it was good to see Howley back, Pivac said: “Yeah. You have got a guy who has that much experience, having been on Lions tours and coached Wales for a long period of time with a lot of good results behind him.
“It’s sad to see anyone out of the game for any length of time when they still have something to offer.
“Byron has worked really hard to be at the level of the game that he was operating at. It was well-documented when he left (Wales job) that the chemistry just didn’t work at that point in time with this group.
“But you don’t become a bad coach overnight, and Byron has done very well in his coaching career. I knew that he would bounce back from that, it was just about waiting for the right opportunity.”
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