Rhys Priestland is relishing the opportunity of getting one-to-one tuition from two of Wales greatest half-backs, Rob Howley and Neil Jenkins, at the pre-Rugby World Cup training camp in Poland

Priestland is one of only two recognised outside halves on the 10-day camp in Spala. His Scarlets colleague Stephen Jones has remained in Wales for the birth of his first child and his opposite number at the Dragons, Jason Tovey, has returned home with a back problem.

And he hopes being in the selectors’ eye-line will stand him in good stead when it comes to trying to seal a place in the squad for Wales’ summer warm-up games against England (home and away) and Argentina (at Millennium Stadium) next month, but he says he is doing no more than just trying to soak up all the experience and the information on offer to him.

“Rob Howley and Neil Jenkins, in particular, make a great team and we couldn’t ask for two better teachers as backs,” said Priestland.

“They both know the game inside out. Rob is a tough task master and he doesn’t miss a thing. If there is a pass that goes astray or is not timed quite right you’ll hear his voice.

“He has the highest of standards and doesn’t let anything go and that’s exactly the way it should be on the training pitch because that’s the pressure you are under in a game. And, as a kicker, to be able to have the kind of one-on- one access to someone like Jenks is invaluable.

“He has gone from being the best kicker of his generation to probably the best kicking coach in the world and it’s just a pleasure every day to be able to work with him. I pick up new things every time we go out for a kicking session.

“From a personal point of view, one of the major benefits of being in the Wales squad is having Jenks on hand whenever you need advice and to make you a better kicker.”

Priestland has revealed Howley has been taking a leaf out of Andy Murray’s book and is bringing a tennis racket along to some skills sessions.

“We have been doing extra skills sessions with Rob after training and one in particular, where he hurls a tennis ball at you at great speed to improve your reaction skills, is proving popular,” said Priestland.

“The players have to jump on a mat one at a time and Rob belts the ball in your general direction and you’ve got to get your hands on it. Obviously, we do the same thing with a rugby ball, but the tennis ball is much harder and it does fine tune your reactions.

“We are all getting better at it, but that’s just one example of the way the coaches are keeping us all on our toes. We have had some criticism in terms of our attack play, but we know we are creating chances.

“Rob and Warren Gatland are the most diligent of coaches and they go through every moment with us retrospectively. We know we just have to improve on our decision making and things will come.

“It’s just small things. But when we get them right everything will slot into place and, hopefully, that will happen for us at just the right time.”

The Scarlets’ pivot made his Wales debut as a full back replacement for Lee Byrne in the RBS 6 Nations win over Scotland this year and featured again from the bench at outside half against the Barbarians this summer. But he insists he doesn’t mind what number he has on his back as long as he gets the chance to wear that red jersey again.

“I’m comfortable with either position and hope that I can be thought of in both areas. But we have some great players in the squad in both positions,” he added.

“Lee Byrne has made the full back jersey his own and then there’s my club-mate from the Scarlets, Morgan Stoddart, who is pretty handy there as well. With players like James Hook and Stephen Jones, who has had an amazing career and shows no signs of stopping, it’s going to be a tough squad to get into.

“All I can do is keep learning, show my desire and work hard. I’m targeting the second camp in Poland now and, if I can get on that, I’ll take it from there. There’s no point looking even as far as the summer internationals yet as the competition for places is so tough, but that’s exactly the way it should be.”

Wales’ second training camp in Spala begins Saturday, 16 July and ends when the players return on Monday, 26 July. The conditions at the camp, where the players have been using the Cryotherapy chambers, basically allow what would normally be deemed two intense days consecutive training in one 14 hour period.

Tickets to the Wales v England Rugby World Cup warm-up match at the Millennium Stadium on Saturday, 13 August (kick off 2.30pm) are priced £30 and tickets to the Wales v Argentina on Saturday, 20 August (kick of 2.30pm) are priced at £25 and are on a ‘buy one get one free’ promotion.

Fans can also purchase their tickets for the Millennium Stadium clashes offer online at or by calling the ticket hotlines 08442 777 888 or 02920 230130 or at local Tesco stores from Thursday.


Post a Comment