Halfpenny tips cap to Warburton
Wales star Leigh Halfpenny has hailed the influence of "great leader" Sam Warburton as he prepares to lead them on their tour of Australia.
Warburton has suffered a series of niggling injuries since Wales' march to the World Cup semi-finals, and was limited to playing just 160 minutes of their Grand Slam campaign.
But the 23-year-old has recovered from the shoulder nerve injury he suffered against France and is set to skipper Wales as they look to take the next step in their development and claim a major southern hemisphere scalp.
Warburton was only handed the captaincy due to injury to hooker Matthew Rees, but such was the assured and composed manner in which he led the way during the World Cup, and in how he dealt with the disappointment of his semi-final red card, that he has made the role his own for the long term.
The Cardiff Blues flanker has won plenty of praise for his all-round professionalism and the influence he and the likes of Dan Lydiate and George North have had in setting an example to the older members of the squad, some of whom have been involved in alcohol-related incidents in recent years.
And his regional team-mate Halfpenny says Warburton's presence against the Wallabies is a "massive boost'' for Wales, and cited his conduct following the World Cup quarter-final win over Ireland as an example of his leadership qualities.
He said: "Sam is massive for us, not just as a player, he leads by example. He is such a great leader.
"We had a good win against Ireland in the World Cup (quarter-finals) where we could easily have gone out and celebrated but we didn't.
'"It was a great win, we were through to the semi-finals and for the whole of Wales it was amazing, but we still felt we had unfinished business and we had another game.
"Sam called us together and said we would have a curfew and every single player was in by that time.
"No one was out after that at all and that is professionalism, not getting carried away and keeping a lid on things.
"There are examples like that where we are just professional in everything we do and Sam leads that.''
For full-back Halfpenny, the tour to Australia will cap a brilliant season which started in worrying fashion.
Halfpenny, 23, faced a race against time to even make the World Cup squad after being sidelined with a foot injury, only making his return in the final warm-up game against Argentina.
Since then he has made the number 15 shirt his own, and played an integral part in the Six Nations triumph with his goal-kicking, sound positional play and heroic defence, best exemplified by his fearless Triple Crown-clinching tackle on David Strettle at Twickenham.
"This time last year I was still in plaster and on crutches, it is great to reflect on it, it's been a good year,'' he said.
"We are still hungry for what's to come, for that challenge of playing a southern hemisphere team in their back yard.
"It's going to be a real tough tour but one we are looking forward to, and we are looking to go there and win the series because anything else is not good enough.
"I have not beaten a southern hemisphere team with Wales. We have come close but not quite got the result. It is something I want to achieve as well as everyone else in the squad.
"When the southern hemisphere sides go away they win, and that is what we want to do.
"We want sides to take us seriously wherever we play them, and they will only start to respect us when we beat them in their own back yard.
"We want to send out a message to the whole world that we mean business and we want to be best in world.''