Wales v New Zealand: Gatland defends Priestland inclusion

Wales v New Zealand: Warren Gatland defends his decision to include fly-half Rhys Priestland in his squad for Cardiff clash

Warren Gatland has defended his inclusion of under-performing fly-half Rhys Priestland for Wales’ clash against New Zealand at the Millennium Stadium on Saturday.

Interested in tickets for the autumn internationals or next year’s Six Nations? You can get £25 off all the sold out autumn internationals and Six Nations games with viagogo, the official ticket marketplace of Sport Review. All you need to do is enter SCRUM25 at the checkout. Offer expires on 30 November. Click here to buy now!

The Scarlets star’s form has been questioned this autumn and he was dropped for the Six Nations champions’ 26-19 loss to Samoa on Friday.

However, Gatland has recalled Priestland for the Test against the world champions, and the Wales head coach maintains that the 25-year-old is the right choice to start at fly-back.

“He had a great World Cup and Six Nations last season and when he plays well, the team does,” Gatland said. “He has taken the brunt of a lot of the criticism in the last two weeks.

“I do not care who you are, if you can handle it you will come through the better for it, and I have told him that. He has not experienced it before and we have to support him.

“We could have made a change there [fly-half], but there are certain players we need to support and back. Biggar is carrying an injury and James Hook is not available next week [against Australia]. We are well aware of the pressures Rhys has been under, but his confidence and form will come back.

“One of the things that attracted us to him was the confidence he displayed and even a slight cockiness you look for. They [fly-halves] need that to control the game and the people around them. “We see an incredibly talented player who is just not playing quite as well as he can at the moment, and we back him.”

Wales team: Leigh Halfpenny; Alex Cuthbert, Jonathan Davies, Jamie Roberts, George North; Rhys Priestland, Mike Phillips; Paul James, Matthew Rees, Aaron Jarvis, Bradley Davies, Luke Charteris, Ryan Jones, Sam Warburton (captain), Toby Faletau.

Replacements: Ken Owens, Gethin Jenkins, Scott Andrews, Aaron Shingler, Justin Tipuric, Tavis Knoyle, James Hook, Scott Williams.

Interested in tickets for the autumn internationals or next year’s Six Nations? You can get £25 off all the sold out autumn internationals and Six Nations games with viagogo, the official ticket marketplace of Sport Review. All you need to do is enter SCRUM25 at the checkout. Offer expires on 30 November. Click here to buy now!

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