Wales v New Zealand, Cardiff, November 24
Gatland backs Priestland to deliver
November 21, 2012
Rhys Priestland will start against the All Blacks © PA Photos
Priestland shone throughout the 2011 World Cup and the 2012 Six Nations for Gatland's side but has struggled to re-find the same sort of form this term. The Scarlets No.10 started Wales' opening autumn Test defeat against Argentina earlier this month but was dropped for their match against Samoa on Friday. As it transpired, due to Dan Biggar's injury, Priestland ended up playing more than half the game.
And although some deem Priestland's performances to have been poor in both Tests, Gatland is adamant that he is the right man to have at No.10 and has picked him to start against the All Blacks.
"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."
© ESPN Sports Media Ltd.