Rugby World Cup: Priestland injury won’t affect Welsh chances

Wales have been forced to bring in James Hook at fly-half for their World Cup semi final clash with France after Rhys Priestland lost his fitness battle.

Priestland has been brilliant for Wales so far in New Zealand but a shoulder injury has seen him ruled out of one of the biggest games in Welsh rugby history.

The only other change to the Wales squad that was so impressive against Ireland in the last round sees Stephen Jones come onto the bench.

Speaking to the BBC, Wales boss Warren Gatland said: “Time was against Rhys, but we are happy that we have the talent and ability elsewhere in the squad to cover him.

“Rhys has done everything we have asked of him and more during this World Cup, but, when we have players of the calibre and experience of James Hook and Stephen Jones coming into the squad and starting line-up, there is no sense that Rhys’s absence leaves us any weaker.”

The odds appear to reflect that belief, with Wales still heading into the game as narrow favourites at 4/5 despite Priestland’s injury.

Hook may only have played a few minutes at No.10 during this World Cup but he has the flair to unlock the French defence and make a real difference.

Similarly, having the experience of Jones – Wales’ most capped player – on the bench could prove invaluable, with his steady play and tactical kicking potentially playing a part should the game be tight in the latter stages.

Priestland’s injury may be a blow to the Welsh but, with such quality replacements, there is no reason to think it makes any difference to their chances of beating France.