Mike Ford, the Bath director of rugby, was less than forthcoming yesterday on the subject of Rhys Priestland, the Wales outside-half, moving to the Recreation Ground after this year’s World Cup. “You’d better speak to him,” Ford said when the issue was raised after the West Country club’s defeat at Leicester.
But few doubt that the move is on the cards, with Priestland indicating that he will make a statement on his future this week. As such statements rarely feature the words “I’m staying put”, the Llanelli-based Scarlets are pretty much resigned to losing one of their most influential performers to the lure of English Premiership rugby.
Some will struggle to understand Priestland’s thinking, given that Ford’s son George is the current England No 10 and undisputed first choice for Bath. But the situation is complicated. Priestland has lost his international place to Dan Biggar of Ospreys, is not thought to be among Wales coach Warren Gatland’s candidates for one of the club-country dual contracts recently sanctioned by the governing body and appears to be slipping down the pecking order, with the Cardiff Blues import Gareth Anscombe and Owen Williams of Leicester pushing for Test recognition.
At 27, the Scarlets academy product is young enough to make a significant impact on the Premiership scene. Bath have another Welsh exile, Gavin Henson, on their midfield roster, but Priestland, who has 32 caps, has what it takes to accelerate past his countryman and could find himself in the match-day squad for all the big games – especially if Ollie Devoto leaves The Rec.
Bath have already confirmed the signing of the Fijian scrum-half Niko Matawalu, who will leave Glasgow at the end of the season, and are increasingly being linked with the Springbok No 8 Duane Vermeulen.Reuse content