Rhys can earn re­call if he main­tains early form

The Rugby Paper - - Guinness Pro14 -

RHYS Pri­est­land was un­fairly treated by the Welsh rugby pub­lic.

The fans are en­ti­tled to their opin­ion on any player, but I feel some of the stick Rhys got was way over the top. It was al­most as if he was made a scape­goat for the team’s per­for­mances a few years ago and no one player – who­ever they are – is fully re­spon­si­ble for how their side plays.

Of course as the Wales fly-half you’re al­ways go­ing to be in the lime­light, have your per­for­mance an­a­lysed, and get a share of the crit­i­cism if you don’t per­form.

Rhys copped it from all an­gles a few years ago and that’s what makes me so pleased to see him al­most back to his best again so far this sea­son. I think it was a good move for him to sign for Bath and es­cape the Welsh rugby bub­ble. Now, he’s clearly full of con­fi­dence and that can only be a good thing for Rhys, Bath and ul­ti­mately, Wales.

I was in the same Wales team as Rhys for a short while and he’s a dream to play along­side as an out­side back. When he’s re­ally fir­ing he plays so flat to the gain line that he’s al­ways go­ing to bring peo­ple around him into play. It takes balls to do that in to­day’s game when the phys­i­cal­ity is as huge as it is, but Rhys does that and he has a lovely pass­ing game.

So much of the suc­cess Wales have had in the last few years was down to Jamie Roberts pro­vid­ing a plat­form from in­side cen­tre. Rhys never took any praise for his role in that, but a lot of the time it was him putting Jamie on the front foot. At the 2011 World Cup, I thought Rhys was out­stand­ing and his per­for­mance in our quar­ter-fi­nal win over Ire­land was bril­liant. That showed to me Rhys can per­form on the big stage, un­der huge pres­sure, and still come up with the goods.

The ques­tion now is that with him play­ing as well as he is in a good Bath side that is go­ing bril­liantly in the Aviva Premier­ship, should he get a Wales re­call?

I don’t see why not. I was in­ter­ested to read com­ments from Rhys that he’s not ex­pect­ing War­ren Gat­land to pick up the phone, but the way he’s play­ing he’d cer­tainly be an as­set. Of course there is plenty of com­pe­ti­tion. Dan Big­gar is the undis­puted No 1. Then there’s Sam Davies and Rhys Patchell who I think has to be given a chance. Owen Wil­liams at Glouces­ter is some­one else to con­sider, but I can’t see why Rhys shouldn’t at the very least be thought about.

Of course there is the fact he plays in Eng­land to take into ac­count and that could play a part with Gat­land’s Law in play; but I’ve said it be­fore, War­ren will al­ways pick the best play­ers if he wants them no mat­ter where they play. If Rhys is among those then I’m sure he’ll be in and the way he’s play­ing right now, he’d be de­serv­ing of a place.

There’s a lot of time be­tween now and Novem­ber, but what­ever hap­pens, it’s great to see Rhys fir­ing on all cylin­ders again.

Im­pres­sive start: Rhys Pri­est­land in ac­tion against Northamp­ton

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