Wales assistant Stephen Jones praises Rhys Priestland’s ability in fly-half role

Wales assistant coach Stephen Jones has praised Rhys Priestland’s sustained ability to deal with expectation and pressure surrounding the role of an international fly-half.

Jones has been there himself, winning more than 100 caps during a Wales career that spanned 13 years.

Priestland, who will be 36 in January, made his Test debut during the 2011 Six Nations Championship, and he starts at number 10 against Autumn Nations Series opponents Georgia on Saturday.

Rhys Priestland
Rhys Priestland starts at fly-half for Wales against Georgia (Joe Giddens/PA)

“You know if you play certain positions there will be questions asked of you,” Jones said.

“The key is your ability as a person, your mental resilience that you can stay focused with your job and not have distractions. He has certainly done that.

“Put performances aside for one minute, it is how he has been in the environment, how he’s been with the other players, his standards in training, his role knowledge and how he is helping developing players.

“And you look at his performances regarding how he has driven the game and how he has managed the game-plan.

Wales
Wales players celebrated after scoring a try against Georgia during the 2019 World Cup (David Davies/PA)

“He is a very smart player. He has been excellent and I cannot speak highly enough of him.”

Priestland is among six changes to the side that defeated Argentina last weekend as Wales look to despatch opponents they will meet again at next year’s World Cup in France.

Recent encounters either side of a comfortable 2019 World Cup win against Georgia, though, saw Wales triumph 13-6 and 18-0, underlining that they can be tough opponents to crack.

Georgia also arrive in Cardiff following victory over Italy this year, while they pushed Samoa last weekend before being edged out 20-19 by a late try.

Jones added: “The vast majority of them (Georgia’s players) play in the (French) Top 14 and there are some very good clubs in the Top 14.

“They have got some very physical players, they love the set-piece, so we respect what they are going to bring.

“We have to be accurate in what we do, we have to be patient and we have to be prepared to stick to our game-plan. The ball is in our court from that aspect.

“From an attacking perspective, we have to play in the right areas, but we have to deal with the collisions as well.

Josh Adams
Josh Adams (right) has recovered from a hand injury to face Georgia (David Davies/PA)

“Ultimately, we want to generate quick ball, and if we don’t do that the game is a lot harder. But if we do, we can play the game on our terms, which is what we want to do.”

Wing Josh Adams, top try-scorer at the 2019 World Cup, returns from a hand injury and there is another opportunity at full-back for Gloucester’s Louis Rees-Zammit.

He excelled on his first Test start in the number 15 shirt against Argentina after moving from the wing, causing the Pumas considerable problems through trademark pace and prodigious kicking.

“It was a big ask to play Louis at 15 last week when he plays the vast majority of his rugby on the wing for Gloucester,” Jones said.

“So fair play to him in the sense he absorbed all the input that was given to him and he transferred that to his game.

“It’s exciting, isn’t it? We’ve got Josh coming back this weekend, we’ve got Leigh (Halfpenny) on the bench and Rio (Dyer) has been excellent for us.”