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Rhys Priestland urges Welsh to Tri harder

Rhys Priestland is on a mission to address Wales' dismal record against the Tri Nations heavyweights of world rugby.

Wales rightly received considerable acclaim for their World Cup campaign in New Zealand when they produced a best tournament performance since 1987 to finish fourth. But fly-half Priestland knows Wales need to move on, starting with today's Millennium Stadium clash against Australia.

It is barely six weeks since the countries last met in the World Cup bronze medal match, and Australia's 21-18 victory that day at Eden Park continued a depressing trend from Wales' perspective.

Their last 15 fixtures against Australia, New Zealand and South Africa have produced a solitary victory, while the Tri Nations ledger during rugby union's 16-year professional era shows three wins, one draw and 41 defeats.

And if Wales are to be a major force at the next World Cup in four years' time, it is a long-term trend they must start reversing.

"We need to get a win against one of the southern hemisphere teams to prove to ourselves that we are good enough, and we have that chance on Saturday," said Priestland, who reclaims Wales' No10 shirt after missing the World Cup semi-final and play-off games through injury.

"I think losing against France (in the semi-final) and then Australia took a bit away from the way we played. We lost two games in a row and everyone was pretty disappointed.

"It's good we have got this game on Saturday. We want to get back to winning ways, and it is important we build on some of the performances in New Zealand.

"At the end of the day, we lost to South Africa, France and Australia out there, and as a squad we are pretty disappointed with that."

Priestland's shoulder problem suffered late in the quarter-final against Ireland meant Wales lost arguably their most influential player from a tournament when he displayed world-class quality.

Lining up opposite Priestland tomorrow will be an unfamiliar Test fly-half in Australia's World Cup wing James O'Connor, who makes his debut international start as first receiver.

Belfast Telegraph


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