Modest Halfpenny deflects adulation
8:19am Saturday 1st February 2014 in © Press Association 2014
Multiple award-winner Leigh Halfpenny will go into this season's RBS 6 Nations Championship established as a genuine rugby superstar.
But Halfpenny is not one for sport's glitz and glamour, even though he has received plenty of red carpet treatment during the past 12 months.
The roll of honour makes for impressive reading - 2013 Six Nations player of the tournament, British and Irish Lions man of the series, BBC Sports Personality of the Year runner-up, BBC Wales Sports Personality of the Year and Rugby Writers' Club player of the year.
He also featured on the International Rugby Board's player of the year shortlist, yet softly spoken Halfpenny readily deflects such adulation.
"The ones that mean the most to me are the team awards," Wales and Cardiff Blues full-back Halfpenny said ahead of Saturday's Six Nations opener against Italy in Cardiff.
"I am just very fortunate to have been involved in two very special teams. I feel very privileged to be part of them.
"To have won a Six Nations for the second time in two years was an incredible feeling, and then to have gone to Australia with the Lions and to go on to win a Test series is something you dream of as a kid. To have been part of it was really special, and something I will remember for the rest of my life."
With his huge emphasis on hard work and an unrelenting commitment to become an even better player, it is wholly fitting that 25-year-old Halfpenny could be in the same team as Jonny Wilkinson next season.
World Cup winner Wilkinson's attention to detail is well chronicled, and, if the celebrated former England fly-half decides to play on next term past his 35th birthday, Halfpenny will be alongside him at Toulon after agreeing a deal reportedly worth around £700,000 a year.
"I am not sure what his future is going to be - whether he stays or not - but it would be incredible to play in the same team as Jonny," Halfpenny added.
"He has been a real role model for me growing up. If he stays, it would be fantastic, but I am just looking forward to joining up with the quality players they have in the team.
"I am happy with the decision (to join Toulon), and now that's out of the way I can focus purely on playing rugby. That is good for me because that is my job and all that I want to do.
"For the time being I have an important Six Nations and I am completely focused on that.
"I am just trying to keep working hard and see where I can improve myself as a player. I'm looking for little details here and there, doing my extras after training.
"I want to do the best I can for the team, and that starts on Saturday against a good Italy team.
"We're coming off the back of an autumn series which was better than the previous year, and there is a great feeling in the squad.
"For us it is a case of knowing what we have to do to be successful and having that belief and determination. We set ourselves very high standards, and we work very hard. It is about trying to make the most of every day."
Halfpenny is closing in on 50 caps and 350 points for Wales, and Wales backs coach Rob Howley said: "His performances over the last 12 months have been absolutely outstanding.
"His diligence, intelligence and how he works are significant indicators as to where he is now. He wants to continue in that vein, and I am sure he will, because he is young and hugely talented."