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Gatland slams Priestland boo boys

Wales boss Warren Gatland has rounded on the Millennium Stadium culprits responsible for booing fly-half Rhys Priestland during last Saturday's defeat against Australia.

Priestland, who will start in the number 10 shirt against Fiji this weekend, was jeered by a small section of home fans among a 55,000 crowd when he replaced an injured Dan Biggar shortly after half-time.

Former Wales captain Ryan Jones was among those who condemned the supporters' actions, venting his anger on Twitter, and Gatland has now leapt to 27-year-old Priestland's defence.

"I only heard today that he was booed," Gatland said.

"I suppose it's part of sport now - Tottenham got booed at the weekend, didn't they?

"The way with social media and stuff and criticism, you feel for Rhys a little bit because he's been hammered on social media by certain sections. He is a confidence player. You hate to see (it).

"He's a young man who at one stage contemplated giving the game away because it wasn't worth taking that sort of personal criticism."

Priestland converted a 64th-minute penalty try that inched Wales 28-27 ahead before Australia rallied to claim their 10th successive victory in the fixture through a late Bernard Foley drop-goal and penalty.

"I thought he (Priestland) did pretty well when he went on at the weekend," Gatland added.

"I just hope he goes out, plays well and puts two fingers up to the section of the crowd that may have been booing him last week.

"It's something I don't think we need in the game.

"We don't always agree, but that's the beauty of sport.

"You disagree with someone, and that's fine, but you would like to see there is a bit of respect out there for people who are trying to do their best. He doesn't go out there to put that jersey on and fail."

Biggar, who limped off nursing a groin injury, is on course to reclaim Wales' chief playmaker role against world champions New Zealand next weekend.

But Priestland will now go under the spotlight, while considerable attention will also focus on Wales' fly-half bench cover - Gloucester star James Hook.

The 76 times-capped Hook was a surprise omission from Gatland's original 34-man autumn Test squad, but he found himself added to the group following Biggar's injury.

"We've been watching James Hook a lot, and I think his game has improved for Gloucester," Gatland said. "He gives us some versatility and he understands what we're trying to do as a squad.

"For us, James was a logical decision and he was pleased to come in. It's a great opportunity for him.

"We were concerened initially with how lateral he was. We wanted him to attack the line a bit more and be a lot squarer. He has been working on that aspect, and I think that's made a difference to him and Gloucester."


From Belfast Telegraph