It’s up to rivals to take the No10 jersey off Priestland
RHYS Priestland is still Wales’ first choice outside half and it’s up to Dan Biggar and James Hook to take the No 10 shirt from him.
That’s the view of former fly half ace Neil Jenkins, now Wales’ kicking coach, on the frontrunners for the famed jersey.
Scarlets’ Priestland has been in the driving seat since he was given his big chance during the pre-World Cup friendlies in August 2011.
A late injury to Stephen Jones before a 23-19 defeat to England at Twickenham gave him the opportunity that catapulted him from a then regional understudy to a World Cup star and Grand Slam champion.
Now 18 caps on, Priest-land, 25, still isn’t everyone’s cup of tea.
But it came over loud and clear at a Wales press conference earlier this week that he will be the one to beat despite some very dodgy moments of late.
“When Rhys has played for us, he has been excellent and he is the number one for us,” Jenkins said.
“He holds the shirt and it is up to the other players to get it off him. I am sure Rhys might be nervous but that is what we want – to have strength in depth and people putting pressure on the players who are in possession of the shirt.”
Jenkins, Wales’ record points scorer with 1,049 in 87 caps between 1991 and 2002, added: “Dan is certainly doing well at the moment but Rhys has played exceptionally well for Wales and we have no issues with him.
“He gives us something different in the way he plays the game but he sees the game as we do. He has a great balance to his game and he knows when to run and when to kick.
“If you ask Rhys to kick the leather off the ball, which you need on occasions, he will do that for you.
“It is not his natural game because he does like to play with ball in hand.”
On Biggar, Jenkins said: “Dan is outstanding at kicking goals and one of the best in the game. His form has also been pretty good and he is using his attributes more than he has in the past.
Hook hasn’t played at outside half for Wales since last autumn’s World Cup’s latter stages when he replaced an injured Priestland.
But Jenkins said it would be unwise to rule out the Perpignan man ever reclaiming the No 10 shirt: “His problem is that he is so good he is capable of playing in so many different positions. I feel he is a world-class outstanding 10 and that is his best position. If you asked him his favourite position, it would be 10 and that is where he wants to play.”