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Howley has faith

Rob Howley has no doubt that whoever is chosen as Wales' first-choice goalkicker for their RBS 6 Nations opener against Ireland will be up to the task.

Wales had their share of kicking woes during the World Cup in New Zealand earlier this season, with key chances being missed against opening pool phase opponents South Africa and semi-final conquerors France.

Injuries could yet force Wales boss Warren Gatland's hand in that department, with fly-half Rhys Priestland battling to overcome a knee problem ahead of next Sunday's trip to Dublin, but on the subject of who will take the kicks, Howley said: "Whoever starts goalkicking will be good enough. We have four good front-line kickers."

Priestland apart, Gatland also has James Hook, Stephen Jones and Leigh Halfpenny among his Six Nations training squad as goalkicking options.

And it would be no surprise if Halfpenny, who has assumed front-line kicking duties for Cardiff Blues this season, landed the role.

"You need options, and Leigh's long-distance kicking has been exceptional," Wales assistant coach Howley said.

"Kicking closer is a far different test of character, skill and mindset.

"It is good to see Leigh is setting standards, and he has kept the Blues in a few games since coming back from the World Cup.

"That puts pressure on Warren and (Wales kicking coach) Neil Jenkins, because everyone knows kicking was an area highlighted in the World Cup and it will be important in the Six Nations. It decides games.

"We have strength in depth in Hook, Stephen Jones, Priestland and Halfpenny. It will be Warren's decision, and he will make it with Neil."


From Belfast Telegraph