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‘European qualification vitally important’ – Rhys Priestland

Rhys Priestland: On the importance of European qualification
Rhys Priestland: On the importance of European qualification

SCARLETS outside half Rhys Priestland believes passionately that European qualification is a must for the Scarlets despite his departure to Bath Rugby at the end of the current season.

The international outside half who has spent his entire professional career with the Scarlets, and has made 155 appearances for the region since his debut over Exeter Chiefs in August 2007, is hoping to finish his tenure in West Wales on a high.

Speaking at the Millennium Stadium earlier this week, ahead of the region’s clash against Newport Gwent Dragons in Judgement Day, Priestland said: “We can’t afford to slip up now. People have said we have an easy run-in but we have two away games and it’s taken until the last game (against Zebre) to get our first away win of the season. The results are by no way given eventhough the teams are below us in the league.”

A top six spot will ensure Scarlets remain in the top flight of European Rugby next season, a feat that the Region have done since their, and the competition’s, inception.

The Scarlets are currently in seventh place, tied on 44 points with sixth placed Connacht, and Priestland believes making the top six in the Guinness PRO12 is crucial for the West Wales Region; he said: “It’s vitally important. I’ve been fortunate to be involved in the top tier of European rugby since I’ve been with the Region. Nobody wants to be a part of the first squad not to be involved in the competition. We’re treating this as if it’s the be all and end all now.”

With his time at the Scarlets coming to end, as he prepares to make a move to Bath ahead of the new season, Priestland says a strong finish to the season with the Scarlets would be a fitting end; he said: “It’s a strange part of the season now. We have weeks off and it’s hard to keep the rhythm going. There are a few boys leaving but we all want to finish the season strongly. I want to do well for the Scarlets in the last three games. We’ll try and win the last three games, they are games we can win. It would be nice to sign off with three wins now at the end and really leave on a high.” JUST when its General Election campaign was making a faltering recovery from a shambolic start, a UKIP candidate has revealed that she is considering whether to take legal action against her own party.

Norma Woodward, UKIP’s candidate in Carmarthen East & Dinefwr claimed to BBC Wales that she had been ‘intimidated, harassed and libelled by the UKIP Wales committee’.

UKIP’s organization in Wales, which is headed by MEP Nathan Gill, attempted to remove Ms Woodward as its candidate for the Carmarthenshire constituency after making public allegations of financial impropriety.

The farce originally extended to an ‘oh no she isn’t, oh yes she is’ tussle about Ms Woodward’s status as UKIP’s Westminster election candidate. At one point UKIP Wales’ website showed no candidate as being selected for Carmarthen East & Dinefwr, while the UK website did.

In the end, UKIP’s UK leadership prevailed in the dispute, determining that its Wales office lacked the requisite power to deselect Ms Woodward as its candidate.

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A statement at the time from UKIP said UKIP’s Welsh committee had ‘misunderstood its constitutional position’.

Ms Woodward claimed: “Right from the beginning I’ve had a tremendous lot of intimidation and harassment, libel and slander and sexual discrimination against me as a female.”

She continued: “The campaigning itself is straightforward, the work is easy.”

“It’s been the bullying that’s been very hard to cope with so I would like the opportunity to clear my name because I haven’t committed any of these things I’ve been accused of.”

Ms Woodward went on to state that UKIP’s central office had been ‘extremely supportive’ of her.

UKIP Wales responded to the allegations by claiming they were unaware of their candidate’s concerns: “These comments have only now been brought to our attention. Had they been raised with the committee previously we would have immediately investigated them.”

UKIP’s campaign in Wales has been a hit and miss affair, with a dispute in Brecon & Radnor resulting in a stand-off between party activists and UKIP Wales’ officers.