Priestland’s Form a Sign That WRU Gatland’s Law Must Go

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2017 Aviva Premiership Wasps v Bath Oct 1st
1st October 2017, Ricoh Arena, Coventry, England; Aviva Premiership rugby, Wasps versus Bath Rugby; Rhys Priestland kicks from the centre spot to start the game (Photo by Phil Hutchinson/Action Plus via Getty Images)

Rhys Priestland continues his hot start to the season, by helping Bath to a 25-9 victory over Wasps. Last Word on Rugby acknowledge his form does bring into question the so-called Gatland’s Law, as it mounts under further pressure.

How Many Men Can Wales Select Under Gatland’s Law?

Gatland’s law was signed as part of the last RSA (Rugby services agreement) by the Welsh Rugby Union. It stated there would be three players granted wildcard selection until 2017 – if not playing in the Regions.

That number increased to four, for two years [this current cycle]. Then, in 2019 it will then decrease to two players.

Statement from the WRU “We are aware that supporters may be concerned that we will not be selecting from a full list of players, but the alternative where players increasingly play outside Wales isn’t sustainable for the long-term success of our game whether that be professional or community rugby.”

Four is the Limit for 2018 Six Nations

This leaves an issue for players such as Liam Williams, George North, Jamie Roberts, Talaupe Faletau, Luke Charteris, Tomas Francis and Priestland, whom are all plying their trade in English Rugby.

With Wales boasting such a small player pool; compared to some of it’s Six Nations counterparts, it seems madness to cut out so many world class players. Especially when they are in such good form [Priestland for one] yet they seem out of favour with the selection committee policy.

Will this hamper the sides presence when the RBS Six Nations begin? And if injury were to remove any selection, how easily will their English clubs release another player?

Welsh Fly Half Selection Issues

Wales plays host to numerous fly halves: Dan Biggar, Rhys Patchell, Gareth Anscombe, Sam Davies and Owen Williams. But with Biggar off to Northampton Saints next season (see below), Wales might in fact lose their starting number 10.

Wales’ RSA policy is then at risk, if starting players with less international experience were decided on – by excluding form players, simply due to a numerical limit.

It would be sheer lunacy to avoid picking only four players as a wildcard-picks, when so many are in great form. Priestland, being one of those who should get picked for Wales, is a prime example of why Gatland’s law doesn’t work.

The Carmarthen born fly half has scored over 200 points at Bath, since his arrival in 2015. He has been instrumental in their strong performances, helping the team to a highest placed finish of fifth last season.

Priestland Should be Leading Candidate for Gatland

Priestland’s run of form; of which he hasn’t really seen since the 2011 Rugby World Cup, is far better than Dan Biggar can boast at the Ospreys currently. Biggar isn’t controlling the game and moving the backs around him as a true leading fly half should.

Wales have the talent at their disposal to play expansive rugby, but in order to truly appreciate this, Gatland must look at bringing back Priestland. Sadly this seems unlikely with other key wildcard players possibly ahead of him ‘on the short list’.

Why limit your options further than you need too? Players have short careers in modern professional rugby, as highlighted by some players in the Aviva Premiership recently. So why punish players whomever moves across the border, simply due to a regulation.

If Wales continued to pick cross-border players, there’d be more success for the player who’d be able to represent his country at the highest level whilst critically, maintaining form for his club side.

Selecting on merit, Wales would receive extra depth which would allow the national side to contend for the major titles…. and more often.

It’s a win-win situation.

Priestland Isn’t Having ‘Sleepless Nights’ Over Wales Selection

The 30-year-old has recently admitted that he isn’t worried over whether he plays for Wales again and that his ”sole focus is with Bath”. Humble maybe so, but looking in on his performances from the outside you could do nothing but feel pleased for a man who has taken far too much hassle from fans.

To remain focused enough to keep on task at his clubs (Scarlets and now Bath) whilst being chastised by many a fan is proof of his grit.

That value, along with the form display over the last month, is enough to warrant selection. Why limit the success of the team, because one or more of the best players are located outside of the regions. Warren would surely say ‘the Gatland law is limited.

The choice is now up to the WRU.

“Main photo credit”
Embed from Getty Images

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