There are four contenders to play in the ‘infamous’ fly half position for Wales. James Hook, Rhys Priestland, Dan Biggar and Owen Williams.
Wales need to select with a fly half and stick to him, and with Hook at 29 at the end of the season and very much out of favour with Gatland, it seems increasingly unikely that he won’t start again for Wales. He is a great option for the Bench; his extraordinary versatility and his attacking instinct make him a real threat when he comes on. Yet for Hook, he’ll be lucky with a spot on the bench.
Priestland really needs a big pre-season, and for that reason I don’t think he should go on tour. He’s an erratic goal kicker, poor in defense and his reputation of an attacking stand-off is rapidly diminishing. His normally ever reliable set of hands and tactical kicking is now very questionable. Yet for all this criticism, he is a classy player with a unique natural talent. His one problem is his confidence, and with this severely lacking recently the South Africa tour could be detrimental to his long term ambitions.
He should take a rest on this tour, get back to full fitness in pre-season and attack the 2014/2015 season again. Although he signed in a new contract with the Scarlets in February, I believe a fresh start in an English club, possibly Gloucester or London Wasps, would have revitalized his club and country career. He said “The Scarlets is where I’ve developed as a rugby player and have been supported since I first started playing – with some good coaches and experienced senior players helping me in my career.” Yet he is stalling, and new coaches and a new environment would do him a world of good.
“Rhys Priestland is such a talent,” said Phil Bennett after the Scarlet’s loss to Cardiff Blues.
“His kicking out of hand wasn’t great and that simple missed conversion, two points, so vital to build up confidence.
“Really at the end of the day Rhys Priestland has got to say to himself: ‘I’ve got to toughen up. I’ve got to be stronger. I want to run the game. I’m number 10. I’m the one who’ll decide how the game is run.’
The Incumbent is a very talented player, and despite sitting in the shadow of Leigh Halfpenny kicking wise, he holds very high kicking percentages for club and country. He is a very astute ball player, and a wise tactician yet he needs to further develop his running game, Wales hold incredibly athletes out wide yet they haven’t been able to get in the game. That is they key to selecting a fly-half for wales, Goal-kicking isn’t a priority with Leigh Halfpenny in the team.
Williams has been awesome at Leicester Tigers; any Welshman who hasn’t heard much of him since he left the Scarlets should be warned. He must be selected for Wales for the summer tour, although uncapped he is a real gem and has been playing marvelously behind a Leicester pack and with the experience of Toby Flood to help him. He reminds me of Rhys Priestland in 2011/2012, yet with the better tackling and a surprisingly good goal kicking game. He is the future of Welsh Rugby, and hopefully Gatland spots this sooner rather than later.
He is only 22 and was voted as Leicester Tigers young player of the Season and nominated for the Premiership Discovery of the season. He played very well against Clermont in the Heineken Cup Quarter Final defeat, and has been at the heart of the Tigers’ revival.
It’s no coincidence that when Wales’ fly-halves are in form, that Wales is in form. During the World Cup and the 2012 Grand Slam Priestland was the driving force, although un-recognized, behind the success. Then the widely publicized 8th game losing streak where Priestland was out of confidence and out of fitness. The recent six nations was the same, Wales really need a consistent 10. Yes Gareth Anscombe is a wonderful player for the Chiefs, but Gatland wanting him to play for the Cardiff Blues is an outrage, and an insult to Wales’ Fly-halves. Williams is the answer. The Long term answer.