WELSH rugby star Leigh Halfpenny officially opened a brand new hydrotherapy pool at the Ty Hafan children’s hospice earlier today, March 26.

Leigh signed autographs and brought massive smiles to the faces of the children as he officially cut the ribbon to the hydrotherapy pool and left a painted handprint on the walls of the Sully-based hospice.

Ty Hafan Ambassador Leigh, who is currently recovering from a dislocated shoulder himself, said it was an “honour and a privilege” to officially open the hydrotherapy pool and that he hoped the children would enjoy the “state of the art” facility.

Leigh, who is set to join French giants Toulon next season after seven years with the Cardiff Blues, also paid tribute to everyone that had helped raise money for the children’s hospice.

“It’s a result of the fantastic work of the Ty Hafan staff, volunteers and fundraisers that have made all this possible,” he said.

He added that the hydrotherapy pool would be “hugely beneficial” to the children at Ty Hafan and would allow many of them to swim for the first time in their lives as they let the water support themselves.

He said that Welsh rugby players used similar facilities for recovery themselves.

“We use ice baths and jacuzzi’s to help with recovery and training,” he said.

“When we use ice baths I can’t wait to get out of them and into hot water again!”

Jayne Saunders, director of care at Ty Hafan, said that the hydrotherapy pool had cost just over £400,000 and that it had been funded by a variety of sources.

“The pool is going to provide tremendous therapy and fun for the children and families," she said.

“It will enable many of our families the important experience of being in water and having fun, as for some they will never have experienced it before with their children.”

She added: “Hydrotherapy really helps to loosen up your muscles and they buoyancy of water is very beneficial too.”

The hydrotherapy pool will create an environment to aid symptom management, diversionary therapy as well as maximising a child’s movement potential through hydrotherapy.

The facility, which has been heavily funded by groups and organisations across south Wales, will allow life-limited children and their families to experience precious time together in a relaxing and fun environment.

Ray Hurcombe, chief executive of Ty Hafan, said that one of the main benefits of the hydrotherapy pool was that it would allow children to experience swimming for the first time and enjoy playing in the water.

He said that official opening made all of the fundraising worthwhile and that he was looking forward to children making the most of the new facilities.