The Herald - Sport - - RUGBY WORLD CUP -

For Rhys Pri­est­land, Wales’ most re­cent Grand Slam-win­ning stand­off, af­ter he was highly crit­i­cised by the high pri­est of Welsh rugby com­men­ta­tors for opt­ing to take a sab­bat­i­cal from in­ter­na­tional rugby.

Jonathan Davies is among rugby’s most re­spected fig­ures, not least be­cause as well as hav­ing been a mag­i­cal play­maker for Wales, he proved tough enough phys­i­cally and men­tally to ex­cel in rugby league, rep­re­sent­ing Great Bri­tain and, per­haps even more im­pres­sively, earn­ing suf­fi­cient re­spect to be in­vited to have a cou­ple of spells play­ing for Aus­tralian clubs. When, then, “Jiffy” sug­gests a fel­low Welsh­man should “toughen up”, most would reckon Pri­est­land should lis­ten.

The former Scar­lets player, who re­cently moved to Bath, has been some­thing of a mag­net for crit­i­cism from sup­port­ers, lead­ing to crises of con­fi­dence that have seen him seek help from sports psy­chol­o­gists, while Dan Big­gar has been as­sert­ing him­self as Wales’ first-choice stand-off. His de­ci­sion also has a rather prag­matic look, since fo­cus­ing on club rugby will doubt­less en­dear him to his new em­ploy­ers and that sus­pi­cion may have con­trib­uted to what may come across to some as a rather un­sym­pa­thetic “old school” mes­sage.

“He does get a lot of stick, but he’s got to take it on the chin and toughen up a lit­tle bit, be­cause if you’re play­ing 10 and you are in the pub­lic eye, it comes with the ter­ri­tory, so for me it’s a strange de­ci­sion and one that I think he will re­gret when he re­tires,” Davies told the BBC web­site.

Pri­est­land’s de­ci­sion looked to have the po­ten­tial to ex­tri­cate War­ren Gat­land, Wales’ head coach, from a tricky sit­u­a­tion, since Pri­est­land was tak­ing up one of only two avail­able places in the na­tional squad to play­ers who have left the coun­try since Au­gust, and Taulupe Fale­tau has in­di­cated his de­sire to leave New­port Gwent Dragons. How­ever, it was con­firmed yes­ter­day Fale­tau had still been re­fused per­mis­sion to go.

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