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Hook discussed as fly-half option

Guinness PRO12 Editor

3 Feb 2011


Wales discussed using James Hook at fly-half ahead of Friday’s Six Nations clash with England.

Wales assistant coach Rob Howley admitted he and his fellow coaches talked about the possibility of Hook wearing the No10 shirt before opting for Scarlets star Stephen Jones.

Howley said he and head coach Warren Gatland had been impressed with Hook’s Magners League performances for the Ospreys when switching back to fly-half for periods of their Christmas fixtures but that Jones deserved the shirt for the tournament opener.

But while Hook has been chosen at the full back for the Millennium Stadium encounter, Howley insists Wales will be determined to get the 25-year-old involved at first receiver in broken play.

"We spoke about James going into 10. It was a long debate," said former Bridgend, Cardiff, Wales and Lions scrum-half Howley.

"We’ve gone for Test-experienced half-backs, two British & Irish Lions (Jones and Mike Phillips). Steve hasn’t done anything wrong.

"James showed that when he played for the Ospreys over the Christmas period, when he went in at first receiver, he offered a running and creative threat.

"It’s up to us as a backline to get him into the game as often as possible. That is one of the goals for Friday night.

"But we also believe that what Steve can bring us is a certain structure you need in the international game. It’s about earning the right to play in those channels and about being direct.

"Steve and Mike, physically, over the autumn series were really effective defenders, which is key."

As for Jones, the veteran playmaker knows exactly the kind of structure Howley and co want him to enforce against England.

Gatland has selected a backline that includes in-form Scarlets centre Jonathan Davies, returning Blues hero Jamie Roberts, former IRB World Player of the Year Shane Williams and the mercurial Hook, but Jones is fully aware that Wales cannot simply rely on their gamebreakers.

Jones knows the Welsh forwards must first provide a platform up front and that he and halfback partner Phillips must be smarten enough to keep England guessing with a penetrating kicking game.

"If we deliver in all aspects of our game-plan then I'm confident. We have a very talented back line but the big challenge is to mix what we have and know when to use them," said Jones, who will win his 96th cap this weekend.

"We have to manipulate their defence whether that's by attacking or with a kicking game.

"But with the players we have we would be foolish not to get the ball in their hands.

"When we have quick ball we have to get it to the likes of Shane Williams and James Hook. But you have to earn the right to do that."