Wales full-back Leigh Halfpenny has broken his silence about his time at Toulon and finding peace by returning to Welsh rugby with the Scarlets.
The British and Irish Lion was introduced as a Scarlets player to the media at Parc y Scarlets on Tuesday morning for the first time.
And Halfpenny admitted dealing with his club situation whilst playing for the Lions was difficult.
“I won’t lie, it was tough,” he told Wales Online.
“To be told in the summer there wasn’t an option for me to go back to Toulon…. I had to reassess my options and from being told that, I knew I wanted to come back to Wales. It felt like the right option.
“It was a huge surprise.
“If Toulon made the Top14 final and with the Lions going away to New Zealand… if was selected I could potentially miss the final if Toulon made it.
“My contract when I first signed there was a two plus one (years), for that third-year option I was able to negotiate a release in the contract that if I was selected for the Lions I was able to go with the Lions.
“It was tough. You play all season with your club and the boys get to the final and then you have to leave them for the club’s biggest game of the season.”
Halfpenny does not regret selecting the Lions tour over the Top 14 final.
“Everyone was aware of the Lions and for me to go on a Lions tour to New Zealand is just the pinnacle of a rugby player’s career,” he said.
“For me, that would be the only opportunity I would get to tour with the Lions in NZ, I felt I had to take that opportunity.
“I had the release so I felt there wasn’t a problem there.
“I had agreed a long time ago to stay at Toulon for one more season, but for whatever reason, there were delays, delays, delays, to the point where before the (Top 14) semi-final where everything had been agreed and it was just a case of signing the contract. But it never came through.
“Then, I found out in New Zealand that there wasn’t an option for me.
“It has been extremely tough.
“It was tough having to watch the final and not be there, of course, but you are on a Lions tour and that is so special.
“Then to have that news… you have to focus on playing on a Lions tour, which is every player’s dream and a goal I set from the very off.
“I wanted to give that everything, I still focused on the tour, but the speculation and everything that came with it was tough to deal with.”
Halfpenny has signed a national dual contract with the Welsh Rugby Union and the PRO12 champions.
“After the tour, having to look at my options, I only wanted to come back to Wales and the Scarlets felt like the right decision,” he said
“It is very exciting to be looking forward to going out and pulling on the Scarlets jersey and getting the season off to a good start.”