Priestland lifts lid on dark days
February 15, 2013
Wales Rhys Priestland sought the help of a sports psychologist during his side's end of year campaign © Getty Images
Wales fly-half Rhys Priestland has offered an insight into the self-doubt that threatened to derail his career last year.
Priestland, who is currently sidelined with an Achilles injury suffered on PRO12 duty for the Scarlets in December, has spoken of the "crisis of confidence" that struck him during Wales' fruitless autumn campaign that saw his side slump to four successive defeats including embarrassing losses to Argentina and Samoa.
"I wasn't really enjoying rugby, especially at the start of the autumn internationals I didn't really want to be on the field," the 25-year-old told BBC Radio Wales' The Back Page. "After the Samoa game was probably my lowest point. I remember speaking to [Wales interim head coach] Rob Howley and... I said, 'I'm not happy, I'm not looking forward to going on the field'.
"I'm going on the field and I just don't want to make mistakes and I've never played like that. I found it quite tough and off the field things weren't going that well for me.
"I remember him [Howley] asking me, 'Do you want to play against the All Blacks?' and I couldn't answer him straight away, and I couldn't believe that I had to think about things like that."
Priestland turned to a sports psychologist to help him work through the problem and saw immediate results. "After the Samoa game I saw Andy McCann, who's the sports psychologist with the squad, and from the first time I met him it was such a weight off my shoulders, just nice to speak to somebody," he added.
"I'm not the sort of person who can easily ask for help, so just being able to speak to somebody and put things in perspective helped me a lot. I thought I turned things around quite well from the first two games to the second two games and I was really happy with the way things were going. Then obviously my injury happened but it's just one of those things."
Priestland has since seen the Wales No.10 shirt pass to Ospreys' Dan Biggar but he is hoping he may be able to return to action before the end of the season. "I'm probably about halfway now, so hopefully back the start of April but who knows?" he said.
"Rupturing your Achilles isn't what it used to be, you used to be out for six to nine months but now it's four or five months. Every day I come in it's improving and I can see the step by steps I need to take to get it better and I'm quite enjoying it, to be honest."
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