Six Nations
Jenkins: Priestland will bounce back
ESPNscrum Staff
March 1, 2012
Wales' Rhys Priestland reacts to the heartbreaking loss to the Springboks, South Africa v Wales, Rugby World Cup, Wellington Stadium, New Zealand, September 11, 2011
Rhys Priestland struggled to find his usual form against England © Getty Images
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Players/Officials: Neil Jenkins | Rhys Priestland
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Teams: Wales

Former Welsh fly-half and current skills coach Neil Jenkins has backed Rhys Priestland to bounce back from his difficult afternoon against England.

The 25-year-old Scarlets number 10 has been a major part of Wales' recent successes having shone at the World Cup, having been handed the fly-half reins during the summer Tests in preparation for the tournament.

But the astute decision-making and tactical kicking prowess that have characterised his recent form were largely absent for sections of the dramatic and brutal 19-12 Triple Crown-clinching win over England.

Priestland spent 10 minutes of the absorbing contest in the sin-bin after having a clearance charged down by Mouritz Botha, and compounding the error by straying offside to make a tackle on Alex Corbisiero. The Scarlet was also off-colour with the ball in hand, giving away a penalty and being turned over after two ill-advised attempts to attack from deep on what was unquestionably his toughest outing to date in a Wales jersey.

Wales coach Warren Gatland admitted he considered taking Priestland off, but felt the player would benefit more from riding out the storm. And Jenkins, himself a former fly-half who became the first man to score over 1,000 points in Tests, has every confidence that Priestland will be back to his best when Grand Slam-chasing Wales face the Azzurri a week on Saturday.

"We have had a chat with Rhys, we had a talk briefly after the game," he said. "We also had a chat on Monday and Tuesday and I think in that last quarter of an hour he has dug in and come through it.

"It hasn't gone his way on the day but we have all been there. We have all had games where things don't go to plan but the pleasing thing I think from Rhys' point of view was that he kept going. I thought in the last quarter of an hour he was excellent, he kept us going forward and I think that was decisive in us winning the game towards the end.

"There were a couple of issues where he could have kicked and we decided to run and we could have kicked a lot more ball in the first half than we did. But he is quite new to the Test arena, he has been involved for more or less a year and it will be a learning curve for him and I am sure he will be back to his best when we face Italy."

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