Leigh Halfpenny confident Wales can respond to Ireland loss and win Six Nations

By Phil Blanche, PA

Leigh Halfpenny insists history can repeat itself and Wales can win the Guinness Six Nations title despite losing to Ireland.

Halfpenny was part of a Wales side which lost their opening game at home to Ireland in 2013, yet recovered to win their remaining fixtures to be crowned Six Nations champions.

Wales resume their campaign at home to France next Saturday before concluding games against England at Twickenham and Scotland in Cardiff.

“Absolutely, we can still win it (Six Nations),” Halfpenny said.

“We have lost one game – and we are hurting from that – but it’s not over.

“We have to win every game now and that is the challenge. We are hugely excited about that.

“We did it in 2013 after losing our first game at home to Ireland and then winning the rest.”

Wayne Pivac had a gentle start to succeeding Warren Gatland as Wales head coach with comfortable Cardiff exercises against the Barbarians and Italy.

But it was a different story in Ireland last weekend as Wales struggled for possession and territory, and Pivac’s men were blown away in the Dublin wind.

“We know they are quality and it is a tough place to win,” Halfpenny said of the 24-14 defeat at the Aviva Stadium.

“But we are disappointed with the errors we made throughout the game.

Wayne Pivac lost for the first time as Wales coach against Ireland (Ben Birchall/PA)

“Put them right and we put ourselves in a better position against France.”

The France fixture will see the return of Shaun Edwards to Cardiff.

Edwards was Gatland’s defensive guru for 12 years as Wales won four Six Nations titles, three Grand Slams and reached two World Cup semi-finals.

“He is a great coach to work with, what he did for Welsh rugby was fantastic,” Halfpenny said.

Former Wales defence coach Shaun Edwards will be in the France camp in Cardiff next Saturday (Ben Birchall/PA)

“Working with Shaun brought my defensive game on immensely.

“He improved me and taught me a lot about the game. I have a lot to thank him for.

“It will be weird facing him, but that is rugby. Time moves on and it is exciting to be going up against his defensive style.

“France will be physical and bring line speed, and Shaun being there will give them a structure in defence.

“We know how teams found it difficult to break us down. That is the challenge for us, identifying opportunities where we can break down their system.”

Halfpenny missed Wales’ Grand Slam-winning Six Nations campaign last season after suffering a concussion against Australia in November 2018.

But the 31-year-old Scarlet, who became a father for the first time last year when his daughter Lily was born, won his 87th Welsh cap in Dublin and is revelling in being on the international stage again.

“Last season was a shame because of injury but I am over that now,” Halfpenny said.

Leigh Halfpenny suffered a concussion against Australia which ruled him out of Wales’ 2019 Grand Slam triumph (David Davies/PA)

“It was different when I was out with the head injury and I am hugely grateful to be back.

“I am enjoying being out there and I am enjoying still looking to improve.

“Having a daughter is very special and I am loving being a dad. It puts everything into perspective.”