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'This could be my only chance' - Rhys Priestland out to make his World Cup mark

Published 19/09/2015

Rhys Priestland, right, will make his first Test start for 10 months on Sunday
Rhys Priestland, right, will make his first Test start for 10 months on Sunday

Rhys Priestland freely admits he does not expect to be in the Wales starting line-up for next weekend's crunch World Cup clash against England at Twickenham.

But that that will not stop the Bath-bound number 10 from looking to leave his mark all over Sunday's opening Pool A appointment with Uruguay in Cardiff.

Priestland has been handed a rare opportunity to fill the fly-half role, having long played second fiddle behind Dan Biggar.

The 28-year-old might have won 35 caps but he has not featured in a Wales starting XV since November last year, yet he now has that chance with Biggar among several players held back for next Saturday's England showdown.

"It does not take a rocket scientist to work out what the team will be against England," Priestland said.

"Sunday might be the only opportunity some of us get, and we all want to make a mark on the World Cup.

"No matter who you are playing against, you want to put down a marker early doors and show we are fit and ready, and if we are called upon they can place a bit of trust in us."

Priestland has occasionally borne the brunt of criticism from Wales supporters, and was once booed by a minority during a Test match at the Millennium Stadium.

But he has remained an important part of the Wales squad and is now able to review those darker days with an illuminating outlook.

"I have taken a bit of stick, but there are worse things I could be doing," he added.

"There have been times when I have not enjoyed it as much, but they are behind me.

"I have enjoyed the summer with the squad, the training and the (warm-up) chance I had in Ireland, and I hope there will be a few more opportunities in the coming weeks to show what I can do and how much I am enjoying my rugby.

"You do get down, but you quickly realise how fortunate you are. The bad times did not last that long, really.

"I feel fit, I am carrying no injuries, which is always nice, and I am looking forward to seeing where I am fitness-wise and showing my skills which I have worked hard on over the summer.

"I think I am a better player than four years ago. The work I have been doing this summer means my kicking is the best it has ever been, and I feel fit and strong. Only time will tell, once the game starts."

Priestland will be expected to pull the strings from a tactical perspective for Wales on Sunday and while the 2011 World Cup semi-finalists are odds-on for a landslide win, he has underlined a need for ruthlessness.

"It is about going through what we have worked so hard on in the last few months," Priestland said.

"The pool could come down to points difference, but we will not feel sorry for anyone. I have been on the back of hidings, and I am pretty sure they would not have felt sorry for me.

"It is the World Cup at the end of the day, and we have to be as ruthless as we can. We have to perform the best we can and I hope we do rack up a few tries, play some good rugby and that will stand us in good stead moving forward."

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