1. ITV Report

Halfpenny named Six Nations 'player of the championship'

Leigh Halfpenny was a clear winner in the public vote Photo: David Davies/PA Wire

Welsh full-back Leigh Halfpenny has won this season's RBS 6 Nations player of the championship award.

Halfpenny, who scored 74 points in the competition as Wales successfully defended the title, was a clear victor.

He gained 40 per cent of the public vote, putting him well clear of runner-up, Italy flanker Alessandro Zanni, with Scotland full-back Stuart Hogg third, competition organisers announced.

More than 80,000 people voted after a 15-player shortlist was compiled through a mixture of technical statistics and supporter opinion on social media sites.

Cardiff Blues star Halfpenny is a firm favourite to be the British and Irish Lions full-back against Australia this summer.

And he now follows his Wales colleague Dan Lydiate, who took the top Six Nations individual award last season.

Halfpenny said that he couldn't "thank the people who voted for me enough."

It's a real honour and privilege, and I am overwhelmed to be in among the players shortlisted.

It's the icing on the cake of an exceptional year for Wales, and it is a privilege to be part of such an exceptional group of people.

For my name to be added to the list of players who have won this award in the past is incredible and extremely humbling.

– Leigh Halfpenny, Wales international

Halfpenny was presented with his trophy in Cardiff today, less than a week after Wales secured the Six Nations crown with a record 30-3 victory over Grand Slam-chasing England at the Millennium Stadium.

It can't get any better for me. To top off such an amazing day as last Saturday by winning this is huge.

The atmosphere in the stadium was unbelievable. Singing the anthem is something that I will never forget, and the fans were outstanding, as they have been home and away during the tournament.

As players, the squad showed immense character and gained confidence throughout the tournament, and against England everything came together and clicked.

It was a great performance and the best game I have been involved in.

– Leigh Halfpenny, Wales international

Wales' interim head coach Rob Howley paid tribute to Halfpenny saying that he was fearless, courageous and one of the best full-backs in world rugby.

He said he was "proud of his performances throughout the championship."

"He is a model professional in every facet of the game, and I am delighted for him. His contribution to the side has been huge."