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Page last updated at 07:57 GMT, Wednesday, 9 March 2011

Leigh Halfpenny reveals Wales hunger for win over Irish

Six Nations: WALES v IRELAND
Venue: Millennium Stadium, Cardiff Date: Sat, 12 March Kick-off: 1700 GMT
Coverage: Watch live on BBC One Wales, BBC One HD and online from 1635-1900; Listen on BBC Radio Wales, BBC Radio Cymru & BBC Radio 5 Live; Text commentary on BBC Sport website and mobiles


Leigh Halfpenny
Halfpenny is set to be handed Wales' long-range kicking duties

Returning wing Leigh Halfpenny insists there is a big appetite in the Wales camp to beat Ireland on Saturday to set up a Six Nations title challenge.

Halfpenny has been out of Test rugby since June 2010 because of injury.

But the Cardiff Blues flyer returns in Cardiff against Ireland knowing a win would leave Wales with a chance of the championship should England slip up.

"[We are] very hungry to put in a really good performance and get the win," said Halfpenny.

"Because it [will be] a massive win in terms of our Six Nations campaign."

Wales are currently second in the table behind unbeaten England and ahead of France in third on points difference.

Ireland are in fourth but, like Wales and France, have only lost once and know that a win at the Millennium Stadium will leave them with their fate in their own hands, as they face England in Dublin on the final day of the championship.

Halfpenny 'overwhelmed' by recall

Added Halfpenny: "It's a must-win [match] if we are going to be in contention [to lift the trophy in] the last game.

"It's a massive game and there is a real buzz around the camp, almost on-edge sort of feeling that [we] just [can't] wait for Saturday."

Halfpenny himself cannot wait for Saturday - especially as it is his first Wales appearance since the summer tour of New Zealand in June 2010.

Since then the 17-times capped wing has had shoulder surgery and then was ruled out of Wales' opening 2011 Six Nations match against England with a sprained ankle he sustained in training.

The injury also ruled him out of the wins in Scotland and Italy.

"[It's] absolutely superb [to be back] - just can't wait for Saturday," he admitted.

"When I heard my name called out for the team I was just overwhelmed.

"It's felt such a long time since I put that jersey on in New Zealand.

If there is a kick that is in my range I will step up and take it

Leigh Halfpenny

"Obviously it was frustrating. First the autumn [I] missed out there and then the first couple of games for the Six Nations."

But the Blues wing has spent his recuperation from injury wisely doing plenty of gym and skills work.

"It has been a real frustrating time but I've just looked at it though it is time to train and work on aspects [of my game] I can improve on like in the gym putting a bit of weight on there and getting a bit stronger," added Halfpenny.

"Looking at my speed and a couple of skills. It's been a time just to improve and I can't wait for Saturday to put all that in to practice."

And he knows there is plenty of competition for wing places with the likes of Shane Williams, Morgan Stoddart, who he replaces in the team against Ireland, and George North all in the frame.

"Fair play to Stodds [Stoddart] he has played superb and he did fantastic in Italy. I was shocked and surprised [to get picked]. I have been asked to play and obviously they are looking for me to do a job. I can't wait for it.

"Competition in the team now is very high and it can only bee a good thing for Welsh rugby. For us as players it makes sure it keeps you on your toes.

Leigh Halfpenny
Halfpenny was injured in training before the England game

"You always have got to be improving or otherwise there is another guy who can step in and take your jersey. It's great we have that competition in the squad."

Halfpenny confirmed he had been practicing to do Wales' long-range place-kicking on Saturday and was boosted by being handed the kicking duties for the Blues' in their 16-11 Magners League victory in Edinburgh last Friday.

Halfpenny was successful with three penalties and a conversion.

"At the moment [I will do the] long distance stuff," he said.

"If there is a kick that is in my range I will step up and take it. It's been going well in training and I managed to take the kicking duties for the Blues last Friday which was good for my confidence."



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see also
Gatland hints at Jones comeback
09 Mar 11 |  Welsh
Hook handed Wales fly-half shirt
08 Mar 11 |  Welsh
Ireland unchanged for Wales clash
08 Mar 11 |  Irish
Edwards wary of Irish try threat
08 Mar 11 |  Welsh
Carling hits out at Wales style
04 Mar 11 |  Welsh
Another train strike on rugby day
09 Mar 11 |  Wales
Italy 16-24 Wales
26 Feb 11 |  Rugby Union
Scotland 6-24 Wales
12 Feb 11 |  Rugby Union
Wales 19-26 England
04 Feb 11 |  Rugby Union
Edinburgh 11-16 Cardiff Blues
04 Mar 11 |  Edinburgh
Wales dealt Halfpenny injury blow
01 Feb 11 |  Welsh
Halfpenny needs shoulder surgery
18 Jan 10 |  Cardiff Blues


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