Rugby World Cup 2011: Jones praises Rhys Priestland form

Rugby World Cup 2011 semi-finals: Wales v France

Venue:
Eden Park, Auckland
Date:
Saturday, 15 October
Kick-off:
0900 BST/ 2100 NZ
Coverage:
Live text commentary, scores and report on BBC website; updates on BBC Radio Wales and BBC Radio 5 live; watch live on ITV1, ITV Wales & S4C (Welsh language), live commentary on BBC Radio Cymru (Welsh language) & TalkSport radio
Stephen Jones and Rhys Priestand in training
Rhys Priestland is expected to be preferred to Stephen Jones at fly-half for Wales' semi-final clash against France

Stephen Jones has hailed the performance of fellow Scarlets outside-half Rhys Priestland for helping Wales into the Rugby World Cup semi-final.

Jones watched as Priestland directed Wales' 22-10 win over Ireland in the quarter-finals.

Priestland is set to face France after overtaking fly-half rivals Jones and James Hook, having made his debut against Scotland in the Six Nations.

"I thought he was outstanding, it's as simple as that," said Jones.

"[Against Ireland] his distribution was excellent; his balance in his game was top draw.

"Defensively he was sound and he controlled the game very well so I thought he had a great game.

"He is a very cool customer. He's an intelligent man. He works hard on his game. He's a good professional."

Jones won his 102nd cap against Nambia, but since injuring his calf ahead of a World Cup warm-up game against England on 6 August he has had to play second fiddle to 24-year-old Priestland.

Priestland's assured performance in Wales' 23-19 defeat at Twickenham was followed by a win seven days later in Cardiff in which he also impressed.

Hook took over at fly-half when Wales ended their pre-tournament campaign with victory over Argentina.

Priestland, who is set to win his 10th cap in Saturday's semi-final against France, started three of Wales' Pool D games - the 17-16 defeat by South Africa, the 17-10 victory over Samoa and the 66-0 rout of Fiji.

And despite Hook having recovered from a shoulder injury he suffered playing full-back against Samoa and Jones' calf problem clearing up, Priestland has held on to the pivot role.

Wales coach Warren Gatland has been particularly impressed by Priestland's coolness under pressure.

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But Jones denies his own role in the Wales squad has changed despite not being included in the match day 22 against Ireland.

"[I] still concentrate on my own game, still try to get my own house in order and prepare to the best of my own ability. Simple as that, really," 33-year-old Jones said.

Jones believes Wales are in the right frame of mind to beat France even though they have lost the last three times they have taken on the French in the Six Nations Championship.

"We have got to make sure we are good defensively. They are cracking outfit and we know that," he said.

"Hopefully we can have the ball for longer periods [than against Ireland]. If that is the case we can get our attacking game going and we won't have to be as defensive minded.

"But defence is key, demonstrated by Australia [in the quarter-final] against South Africa. It is an important facet of the game.

"There's a great feeling in the camp at the moment. We have got a young squad, but the guys are pretty chilled out which is a good thing.

"It is important you enjoy what you do. If you do that you perform better.

"We are an ambitious group and we want to make sure we go through and get to the final."

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