Rhys Priestland: Wales coach Wayne Pivac not allowed to pick Bath fly-half

Rhys Priestland made his Wales debut against Scotland in February 2011
Rhys Priestland made his Wales debut against Scotland in February 2011

Wales coach Wayne Pivac says his request about picking Bath fly-half Rhys Priestland for the 2021 Six Nations was turned down.

Pivac had asked about the availability of Priestland, who is in line for a move next season to Cardiff Blues.

The Welsh Rugby Union has a rule which stops those playing outside Wales being selected for Test rugby if they have won fewer than 60 caps.

Pivac revealed he was told he could not pick Priestland.

The 34-year-old will become eligible for Wales when he joins the Blues in the summer of 2021 but could have been involved immediately, as was the case with Rhys Webb last year.

The scrum-half was eligible to play for Wales in the 2020 tournament after announcing he would return to Ospreys from Toulon for the start of the 2020-21 season.

The WRU stated then Webb would be free for immediate selection after he was given a "six-month dispensation".

After last playing for Wales against New Zealand in November 2017, Priestland could also have been eligible immediately if his case had been treated as Webb's was.

Cardiff Blues fly-half Jarrod Evans, Dan Biggar and Callum Sheedy are the three specialist 10s in the squad.

"In terms of Rhys [Priestland], we've asked the question along the lines of the Rhys Webb question when that was done at the time," said Pivac.

"We have injuries to Rhys Patchell, who's coming back from a well-documented head knock and is now in a reconditioning programme having been out of the game for a while. Gareth Anscombe is still out.

"So we asked the question: 'Can we select Rhys if we need to call upon him?'.

Wales head coach Wayne Pivac believes his squad are good enough to win the 2021 Six Nations

"We've selected what we have on the basis that they're available and we now know whether or not we can use Rhys if we get further injury."

When asked directly whether Wales could use Priestland, Pivac replied: "No we can't."

That decision was made by the Professional Rugby Board (PRB) which is an organisation made up of the four Welsh regions and WRU representatives.

Pivac is hoping he can keep his six English-based players in camp during the Six Nations because of Covid-19 concerns.

Biggar, Sheedy, Tomas Francis, Taulupe Faletau, Will Rowlands and Louis Rees-Zammit all play club rugby in England.

Under World Rugby regulations, players would normally return to clubs at certain periods during the tournament in fallow weeks and if they are not in a match-day 23.

Premiership Rugby (PRL) agreed that England could keep a 28-man squad bubbled up for the duration for the tournament, but that policy does not apply to other countries and Pivac hoped that could change.

"It's an ongoing discussion," said Pivac.

"It's very topical and one everyone's looking for some clarification over, and I believe we will get that.

"I believe it would be sensible for everyone in the current climate (if) we don't - and we certainly don't want - to have players coming and going, because in the community at the moment the new variant is transferred very quickly.

Dan Biggar and Taulupe Faletau play for Northampton and Bath respectively
Dan Biggar and Taulupe Faletau play for Northampton and Bath respectively

"So we would like if we can to have any players selected based outside of Wales full-time. We're just waiting for an answer on that."

Pivac says the squad would spend more time during the two-month tournament in a bubble than they did during the 2020 autumn campaign, although limited visits home will be allowed.

"It's going to be a balancing act between the two, so they will be in camp and expected to stay in for longer periods of time," said Pivac.

"From a mental health point of view and just to freshen up, they will have the odd outing back home.

"There will be an education process and there will be one also with family members for when they do go home.

"This tournament's so important for the communities, not just ourselves, to give everybody something to look forward to.

"So we've got to play our part ourselves to make sure our squad is intact the best we can be under the current environment, and make sure the show does go on."

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