The Cardiff Blues’ fight to keep the new global superstar at the Arms Park will hinge on negotiations with the player’s agent over how much it will take to prevent Halfpenny heading for France this time next year.
European champions Toulon had earmarked the scrum-capped full-back as Jonny Wilkinson’s goalkicking successor next year before the match-winning Welshman established himself as the Lion of lions in Australia.
Halfpenny’s advisors will not waste any time reminding his employers of their client’s soaring market value. Clermont, where Lee Byrne is about to embark on his last season, hope to replace one Wales full-back with another.
Ominously for the Blues, Racing Metro are also interested, armed with a cheque book if anything bigger than the one wielded by Toulon’s owner Mourad Boudjellal. The Parisians have made Jonny Sexton the highest paid import into the Top 14 at £600,000-a-year as well as capturing another Lion from the Blues, Jamie Roberts for a mere £420,000.
The Blues know Racing will not baulk at paying more for Halfpenny but they will counter that by guaranteeing the game’s hottest property a more rewarding base for his international career while making fewer demands on him during the domestic season.
“I’ll be putting our cards on the table at the meeting,” Blues chief executive Richard Holland said. “We will get an idea of the number we’re looking at in terms of what sort of package they want for Leigh.
“We haven’t got three-quarters of a million to put on the table, or half a million. I will be honest with his representatives and tell them what we can afford. There has to be a realisation that we can only afford so much.
“All I can do is put forward something which is competitive and we are confident we can broker a deal to keep Leigh at the Blues. The WRU has made additional funds available.”
Holland will emphasise the fact that the regions’ agreement with the WRU is geared towards ensuring Halfpenny, Lions captain Sam Warburton and wing Alex Cuthbert are in the best possible shape for Wales duty.
Test match preparation time for French-based players is virtually halved with release blocked for at least one international every season.
“Welsh players employed by the regions are guaranteed an early release for international duty which enables them to flourish on