Six Nations

Priestland stays with Scarlets

2014-02-18 18:20
Rhys Priestland (AFP)

London - Wales outside-half Rhys Priestland gave Welsh regional rugby a boost on Tuesday by announcing he was extending his contract with the Scarlets.

The 26-year-old had been linked with clubs in England and France, where several of his international team-mates are playing for Top 14 clubs, with full-back Leigh Halfpenny set to join them at the end of this season in a lucrative move to European champions Toulon.

Priestland -- in line to play for Wales against France in the Six Nations in Cardiff on Friday -- however, has opted to stay put and follow the example of Scarlets team-mate Scott Williams and Ospreys and Wales lock Alun Wyn Jones, boh of whom recently committed themselves to staying in the Welsh club game.

Capped 27 times by Wales, Priestland was a member of the 2012 Grand Slam-winning team and a year earlier helped his country reach the semi-finals of the World Cup.

"I am really pleased to have secured my contract with the Scarlets going forward and to continue my commitment to rugby in Wales," he said.

"The Scarlets is where I've developed as a rugby player and have been supported since I first started playing, with some good coaches and experienced senior players helping me in my career.

"It's important to me to continue my commitment to a great rugby community, environment and team that I am proud to be a part of.

"We have a very strong team ethic at the Scarlets, and it is good to belong to an environment that means a lot to me as an individual and has a real heritage and tradition as well."!

Simon Easterby, coach of the Llanelli-based Scarlets, added: "Rhys has become one of our most experienced players and has a lot to contribute to the region on and off the field.

"He's a key figure in our squad, an intelligent rugby player who thinks quickly and reads a game well.

- 'Positive signal for Welsh game' -

"A lot has been said about how to retain our best players in Wales.

"While market forces can be difficult to battle at times, there is another dimension to this discussion and that's about creating a regional rugby environment and culture that engenders loyalty, motivation and drive in players with the support to succeed.

"It was really important to us all to keep Rhys and other players at Parc y Scarlets - our supporters will be delighted too, as he is a popular local player."

Meanwhile the Welsh Rugby Union said it was "delighted that another key international player has committed his future to a Welsh rugby region".

The WRU added: "The decision of Rhys and other key players to commit to Welsh regions is being seen as a positive signal for the game in Wales at a time when lucrative offers are being made for players to move abroad."

Uncertainty over the future of both the domestic Celtic League and European Cup club tournaments, as well as a bitter row between the WRU and the four regions over the future of the Welsh club game, has sparked fears of an increasing player exodus from the Principality.

But the WRU said Tuesday it remained "cautiously optimistic" that talks regarding a European cup competition format for next season were "nearing resolution", adding it was still involved in negotiations with the regions over a new agreement.

Read more on:    rhys priestland  |  rugby
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