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Page last updated at 15:05 GMT, Wednesday, 22 April 2009 16:05 UK

Halfpenny's Lions pick 'deserved'

Halfpenny rise amazing - Williams

Shane Williams says he was delighted to see fellow Wales wing Leigh Halfpenny selected for the Lions tour.

Halfpenny was playing club rugby a year ago but the 20-year-old has leapt ahead of more established names to earn the call to face South Africa this summer.

"It's almost a dream come true for him and he certainly deserves it, he's had a great season," Williams said.

"I was almost hoping for Leigh's name to be in there as much as mine really, but it's good to see."

Halfpenny was a surprise Wales starter, then aged just 19, against the Springboks last November as the world champions came to Cardiff.

Wales lost 20-15 in a thriller, with Halfpenny opening his Test points account with a penalty when used as a long-range kicking option.

It's great for him, this really will make him as a player

Shane Williams

That match also saw his Cardiff Blues team-mate Andy Powell make his Wales debut, with a man-of-the-match performance that has helped the number eight's own Lions selection.

Halfpenny did not take long to score his first try for his country with a brace against Canada the following week.

The youngster continued his steep learning curve in the third November Test against New Zealand, a 29-9 defeat.

But Halfpenny was left out of the following week's famous win over Australia as Wales coach Warren Gatland opted for the greater experience of Mark Jones.

But Gatland - who is one of Lions head coach Ian McGeechan's assistants to South Africa - restored Halfpenny for the Six Nations opener against Scotland.

The youngster rewarded the faith shown in him with a third Test try and then added a crucial fourth plus another penalty in the next round's win over England.

Halfpenny also played against France but missed out for the final two games against Italy and Ireland.

However, some fine performances for the Blues - especially in their march to claim the EDF Energy Cup and reach the Heineken Cup semi-finals - saw Halfpenny get the Lions call.


"He probably wasn't talked about going until about two weeks ago, he's had a tremendous season," Williams added.

"He's only 20 years old so I'm real glad to see Leigh there and looking forward to seeing him wear that red shirt for the Lions.

"In 12 months he's gone from playing rugby for Cardiff [RFC] to the Cardiff Blues, Wales Under-20s to Wales and now Lions selection.

"It's incredible and it's great for him, this really will make him as a player - he's a great player now and it just makes you think what he'll be like in a couple of years."

Halfpenny is the youngest in the squad for South Africa. The next task in his meteoric rise will be try to claim a starting Test spot for the Lions, with Williams, Ugo Monye, Luke Fitzgerald - only 21 himself - and Tommy Bowe the other specialist wings in the squad.

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see also
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2009 Lions: Squad & results
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History of the Lions
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Scrum V's starting Lions XV picks
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Mighty Boks: South African rugby
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Botha tips S Africa to beat Lions
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BBC Sport Wales coverage
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