There’s a lot to weigh up. Leigh has had a lot of success in France with Toulon and he’s been part of a great team, a great set-up and has been playing with some of the best players in the world week in, week out. Winning trophies is what you play for as a professional and it can be very difficult to give that up. It would be a gamble to leave and Leigh will know that.
He’s living in an amazing part of the world where the sun shines for most of the year and there are sell-out crowds on a regular basis. But what I do know is that for Leigh, playing for Wales remains the most important thing in his career. I spoke to him just before he signed his last contract with Toulon and he felt the best decision was to play in France. He’s really enjoyed his time there and I feel for him because he’s torn over the decision, but perhaps he thinks it’s now time to come home.
His opportunities to play international rugby will be central to the decision. Knowing Leigh as I do if the chance to play for Wales was taken away from him, he’d be devastated. He’s a proud Welshman who gives everything for his country – you only have to watch him singing the anthem to see that.
The last time he signed with Toulon, Leigh was told he’d still be able to play for Wales, but things have changed since then with the selection policy and players playing abroad. It’s a huge year ahead for Northern Hemisphere rugby with the Six Nations and then the Lions tour to New Zealand. There’s a lot to think about and it’s a stressful period. Does Leigh want to be worrying about his future while all that’s going on? No, he doesn’t. He’ll want to make the decision as soon as possible as there’s nothing worse as a player than contract business hanging over you. If he were to come back to Wales it would certainly take the pressure off and allow him to concentrate on his stuff on the field.
Leigh did the opposite to me in terms of moving to play abroad at a young age and ultimately, he has to make the decision. But he still has so much to offer to Wales. Warren Gatland is a big fan and yes he could still play for his country if he re-signed with Toulon. But coming back home would mean he’d be looked after. When you sign for a big club in France you get paid a lot of money, but you also play a lot of rugby and that’s something to take into account.
Leigh is a hero in Wales and it would be fantastic for the game here if he came back. We’ve been losing players for years now and Liam Williams is the latest to move over the Severn Bridge. So if Leigh followed the likes of Gethin Jenkins and Jonathan Davies in returning, it would only benefit the game here and put more bums on seats.
There’s been lots of talk about Leigh and Cardiff Blues, but I think the Scarlets would be perfect for Leigh and he would give them a massive boost too. A lot of their supporters are very disappointed to be losing Liam, but if Leigh was his replacement that would certainly soften the blow. Leigh has a lot of history with the Blues and I understand that, but if he signs there I’m sure his contract would have to guarantee he’d be first-choice full-back and where would that leave Matthew Morgan? He’s a developing player who would lose out if Leigh came in.
They’ve also got a number of wings in Tom James and Alex Cuthbert and Dan Fish plays in the back three too. For me the Scarlets is a more natural fit and while we’ll have to wait and see what happens with a dual contract, I know where I’d like to see Leigh playing next season.