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Leigh Halfpenny: '100th Test appearance is beyond my wildest dreams'

Leigh Halfpenny: '100th Test appearance is beyond my wildest dreams'
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The full-back becomes the eighth Welshman to reach the landmark figure.

Leigh Halfpenny will achieve a feat beyond his "wildest dreams" on Saturday when he becomes rugby union's latest centurion.

Wales full-back Halfpenny clocks up 100 Tests for his country and the British and Irish Lions in a Principality Stadium clash against Canada.

He becomes the eighth Welshman to achieve that feat after Alun Wyn Jones, Gethin Jenkins, Stephen Jones, Gareth Thomas, Martyn Williams, Adam Jones and George North.

And in a neat symmetry, he will reach three figures by facing the country he claimed his first international try against 13 years ago.

"It is beyond my wildest dreams," Halfpenny said. "As a kid, I had a dream to play for Wales and gain a first cap.

"You never take any selection for granted and I am hugely grateful for the opportunity and to all the people who have helped me along the way.

"Without all that help, it would not be possible and I would not be here today."

Wales v France – Guinness Six Nations – Principality Stadium
The Principality Stadium in Cardiff (Adam Davy/PA)

Ongoing restrictions have eased sufficiently for an 8,200 crowd to attend Saturday's encounter, permitting a first Wales home attendance since they were beaten by Guinness Six Nations opponents France 16 months ago.

And that means Scarlets star Halfpenny's red-letter day will be witnessed in the Principality Stadium by those closest to him.

"It has been a tough year, but it is hugely exciting to see fans back in the stadium," he said.

"I am sure the 8,000 will make it sound like it's a full house and I feel immensely lucky to be able to have my family there for the game.

"They are all coming up, including my parents, my partner Jess and (daughter) Lily. My grandparents, aunties and uncles as well. We have had about 18-20 tickets."

Halfpenny has amassed 778 points in 95 Tests for Wales – only Neil Jenkins and Stephen Jones have scored more – and 49 in Lions colours, which highlighted his player of the series accolade achieved during the 2013 Australia tour, while he was also a 2009 and 2017 Lion.

But the 32-year-old has encountered his share of setbacks, including missing the 2015 World Cup after suffering a knee ligament injury during Wales' final warm-up game.

"It is tough to deal with injury," he said. "You want to be out there playing.

"I've had a few injuries, but the knee injury in 2015 just before the World Cup was a particularly difficult one to deal with in terms of how long those injuries are with the rehab.

"There are times when you don't know if you are going to come back the same. You have those doubts but you try to remain positive and stay focused on what you can control.

"There feels like there is plenty more in the tank. My body feels good and I am loving my rugby. It is an exciting couple of years ahead to the World Cup."

Halfpenny has been part of Grand Slam and Six Nations title-winning Wales teams, and played in two World Cup semi-finals, in addition to his Lions feats.

And he said: "Winning the 2012 Grand Slam was pretty special and then we backed it up in 2013 by winning another title.

"The 2009 tour to South Africa gave me a taste of the Lions and what it is all about, and it motivated me more to achieve it again, so to go on the 2013 tour to Australia, playing in three Tests and winning the series was unbelievable.

"To go on three Lions tours is something I still have to pinch myself about and I am just so grateful."

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