Rhys can earn recall if he maintains early form
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