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Patchell determined to show what he's all about

 

Injury woe: Rhys Patchell endured a nightmare year
Injury woe: Rhys Patchell endured a nightmare year

By Steffan Thomas

Ireland will face a revitalised Rhys Patchell who will be determined to prove his World Cup worth at the Aviva Stadium.

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The 26-year-old will start his first Test since June 2018 against Ireland in Dublin tomorrow after sealing a last-gasp place on the plane to Japan.

The Scarlets out-half was outstanding off the bench at the Principality Stadium last weekend sparking a late Welsh comeback with a try of his own.

Patchell suffered two nasty concussions last term which made it three head knocks in the space of a year.

He also had a lengthy lay-off in 2015 after being "sparked" by the then giant Ulster No 8 Nick Williams. Patchell says the heavy blows drained his confidence and self-belief.

"I don't know whether I dealt with it very well," he said.

"It (concussion) is a bizarre injury. You can't see anything. You have got no scars.

"It's one of those injuries where coming back from getting sparked in 2015, I didn't really start feeling like myself on the field until about six months later.

"I probably won't be looking back on the last year too many times. I got concussed, came back, started finding a bit of rhythm, then got concussed again. When I came back again I tore my hamstring. The couple of concussions were particularly tough to deal with.

"It was three in the space of 12 months which was the concern.

"But I went up to see a specialist in Birmingham and that was really helpful in terms of putting my mind at ease. He said structurally there was nothing wrong with my brain.

"It wasn't the season I wanted going into a World Cup and a lot of people were ready to voice their opinions of me, but their opinions are by the by."

Patchell's impressive try-scoring second-half substitute appearance against Ireland last Saturday saw him edge out Jarrod Evans for a place as back-up fly-half to Dan Biggar.

He gets the chance to impress head coach Warren Gatland as part of a strong Wales side led by captain Alun Wyn Jones.

Patchell makes his first start of the World Cup warm-ups as do scrum-half Tomos Williams, hooker Elliot Dee and prop Wyn Jones.

Patchell and Williams will face a tough test against star Ireland and British Lions half-backs Conor Murray and Johnny Sexton. Gatland has made 15 changes and believes victory at the Aviva Stadium is vital ahead of the World Cup.

"This is our final preparation match so it is important we get rugby ready ahead of our World Cup opener against Georgia which is just over two weeks away," he said.

"It's important we hit the ground running in Japan and we give the players enough time on the field.

"Saturday is the first time these players would have taken to the field as members of the World Cup squad. It is a big opportunity for players to put their hand up and secure spots."

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