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Rhys Priestland getting back to his old decisive self

In 2012, when asked was he ready to play against the All Blacks in Cardiff, Rhys Priestland's fatal hesitation betrayed a nightmare year of injury and loss of form that, ultimately, propelled him into the grateful arms of sports psychologist Andy McCann.

The Scarlets playmaker of the ungainly gait had once been central to the humbling of the Irish in both the 2011 World Cup quarter-final in Wellington and then on his visit here two years ago en route to the 2012 Grand Slam win.

But a series of injuries and the crippling self-doubt, seemingly so exclusive to players of his ilk, threatened to thieve him of his greatness.

Mercifully, as anyone who watched his dove-tailing with Scott Williams in dismantling Harlequins earlier this season can testify, he is fully restored to his physical and mental peak.

"Some good, some bad," he says when asked to reflect on his weekend display against Italy.

"I was disappointed to lose the ball in contact for their try, but it was good to be back playing and I want to enjoy rugby. We have a settled back line and my role is to get the ball to the big guys in the side.

"Because the squad is getting more experienced and comfortable with each other, we are not afraid to shout at each other, even if it is the wrong thing; the worst thing on the field is when a team goes quiet," he continued.

"We are not afraid to rip into each other when necessary. We have experience up front and behind. Mike Phillips is not quiet. I would not say I am the quietest on the field, maybe off it, but not during the action."

Belfast Telegraph