British & Irish Lions
Halfpenny backs Warburton for Lions skipper
ESPN Staff
March 25, 2013
Wales' Leigh Halfpenny with the Six Nations Player of the Championship trophy, WRU Training Centre, Cardiff, Wales, March 22, 2013
Wales' Leigh Halfpenny poses with the Six Nations Player of the Championship silverware © Getty Images

Leigh Halfpenny has hailed the inspirational qualities of his Wales team-mate Sam Warburton and backed him to lead the British & Irish Lions to Australia later this year.

Warburton steered Wales to the 2011 Rugby World Cup semi-finals and a Grand Slam in the 2012 Six Nations but a shoulder injury saw the captaincy pass to Ryan Jones and the Gethin Jenkins during this year's battle for northern hemisphere supremacy. Warburton turned down the chance to reclaim the honour on his return to the side but Halfpenny has revealed he still took a leading role both on and off the field to help propel Wales to a stunning 30-3 victory over England in their title-decider in Cardiff earlier this month.

Halfpenny, who was named the Six Nations Player of the Championship last week and is a hot favourite to claim a place in the Lions squad announced on April 30, has offered a fascinating insight into a pivotal half-time rallying call, when the hosts held a narrow 9-3 lead, that he believes showcases Warburton's leadership qualities.

"Gethin spoke first and then Sam spoke up and asked how much did we want to win it more than England," Halfpenny told The Daily Telegraph. "He told us that whenever we were shattered or felt like we didn't have anything left to give, just to think of that feeling of us lifting the trophy again.

"They were incredible words and inspired us all. He wasn't captain for that day but as soon as he spoke up I thought about his words during the second half. There were times in that second half when I was really blowing but I kept thinking about what it would mean to lift the trophy again and how I would feel and every single player had their best game of the championship."

He added: "Sam is a fantastic player and a fantastic leader. He is not a man of many words so when he does speak, like he did at half-time in the England game, it is full of raw passion and from the heart. He means every single word and is a really inspiring captain.

"You know that every time he sets foot on the field he is going to give 100 per cent. He puts his body on the line game after game and he would be an incredible captain." Listening to Halfpenny recall the game and its aftermath, it is hard not to be left with the impression he is the kind of player that any captain would love to lead.

© ESPN Sports Media Ltd.

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