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Wednesday 25th
posted by Morning Star in Sport

WALES boss Warren Gatland has welcomed a “rejuvenated” Rhys Priestland into his squad for this season’s autumn Tests.

But while the Bath fly-half — who has not started a Wales game since the 2015 World Cup opener against Uruguay — returns, there are no places among a 36-man group for 93 times-capped centre Jamie Roberts, Scarlets midfielder Scott Williams or long-serving lock Luke Charteris.

There is a call-up for New Zealand-born Scarlets centre Hadleigh Parkes, even though he will not be eligible until the series finale against South Africa on December 2, by which time he will have completed his residency qualification.

Parkes is joined by four other uncapped players in the squad: Ospreys centre Owen Watkin, his regional teammate and flanker Sam Cross, who was part of the Team GB rugby sevens squad at last year’s Rio Olympics, plus Dragons prop Leon Brown and hooker Elliot Dee.

Priestland needed one of four available wild-card picks to represent Wales this season until the Welsh Rugby Union last week changed its national player selection policy.

“He looks calm and relaxed at the moment and playing with a lot of confidence,” head coach Gatland said.

“That was what we had in 2011, a Rhys Priestland who did so well at the World Cup. He was very, very good for us.

“He is the type of player when he has got that self-belief and confidence, the better he plays. That’s the big challenge for us, to keep him being confident, not reading social media and negative reports.

“That has had a negative impact on him in the past. It was one of the reasons why he made the decision to leave Wales, to get away from it, and I think it has been good for him.

“He has been rejuvenated as a player. He is playing exceptionally well in that Bath team.”

Scrum-half Rhys Webb, who will be ineligible for Wales under the new 60-cap rule covering players who play outside the country when he joins French heavyweights Toulon next season, also features, with lock Alun Wyn Jones continuing as captain.

Wales kick off their autumn campaign against Australia on November 11.