Leigh Halfpenny: France clash is the ultimate test of Welsh character

8:30am Friday 21st February 2014

LEIGH Halfpenny insists that every Wales player is playing for their Test future when they tackle France at the Millennium Stadium this evening.

After a hammering at the hands of Ireland last time out, head coach Warren Gatland fired a warning shot to his squad that another poor Six Nations display could see them axed.

Mike Phillips was the only big name casualty of the Dublin debacle with the Racing Metro scrum-half having to settle for spot on the bench against Les Bleus.

But Halfpenny – player of the 2013 Six Nations, man of the Lions' series victory in Australia and international player of the year at French rugby magazine Midi Olympique's prestigious Oscars du Rugby – says everyone is feeling the heat ahead of the clash with Les Bleus.

"Of course nobody is guaranteed a place in the side. That's how I've always seen it," said the prolific Toulon-bound full-back who won his 50th cap at the Aviva Stadium.

"Every time you put that jersey on you have to play like it's your last Wales game because you never know when you are going to pull it on again.

"It's safe to say we let ourselves down against Ireland. Now it's a test for us as a team to bounce back.

"It's a test of character and we need to respond with a huge performance."

The 25-year-old Cardiff Blues ace will hope that those in front of him will prevent the formidable frame of Mathieu Bastareaud, who will be a teammate next season, bearing down on him.

And Halfpenny believes the Toulon powerhouse will have his hands full himself against the quick feet of George North, who moves from the wing to outside centre in the absence of Jonathan Davies and Scott Williams.

"George is a fantastic player," he said. "With his ball-carrying, physicality and speed, he's immense. I'm sure he'll create problems."


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