Rugby: Wales' Halfpenny plays down awards

Award-winning Wales star Leigh Halfpenny is determined just to get on with his job as he prepares for Saturday's Millennium Stadium showdown with South Africa.

Leigh Halfpenny of Wales

The Wales full-back has been acclaimed throughout world rugby for his achievements this year.

The Six Nations player of the tournament, he was then named player of the series when the British and Irish Lions toppled Australia down under before landing French rugby magazine Midi Olympique's international player of the year at the so-called 'Oscars du Rugby'.

"It is such an honour, and when you look at the previous winners you realise how special the award is," said Halfpenny, who travelled to Paris to collect his latest honour earlier this week.

"I would just like to say a huge thanks to my team-mates, my coaches, the guys I work day in day out with over the years and also my friends and family for supporting me along the way.

"Without them, there is no way I would have been stood there."

It would be no surprise if Halfpenny is now recognised by the International Rugby Board at their annual awards bash next month - Shane Williams is the only Welshman to have been named IRB player of the year - but all his thoughts are currently on sinking the Springboks.

"For me, I am just doing my job for my team and what is expected of me," he added.

"I take that field and I don't like to be individualised about my kicking.

"Without my team-mates winning the penalties, scoring the tries, I wouldn't have the opportunities to kick them.

"I still see myself as the same player as I always was, I don't see myself as any different.

"I am still trying to work hard and look for errors in my game to improve. You can never stop learning, and that is what I am trying to do."

Wales have only beaten South Africa once in 26 attempts, while their solitary victory of coach Warren Gatland's five-year reign against the Springboks, New Zealand and Australia came at the Wallabies' expense in 2008.

"I think it's all about putting the expectations on ourselves," Halfpenny said.

"Last autumn was a poor one for us, and we've go to take it to the next level as a squad and really make a statement this autumn and start beating the southern hemisphere teams.

"I am just trying to work as hard as I can, and it's been great to come back into the camp and just keep my head down and work hard on my game. I am trying to improve as a player all the time."



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