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.