Wales pondered Hook at 10

Howley says Ospreys player was close to start at fly-half

Last Updated: 02/02/11 5:05pm

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Hook: Creative threat

Hook: Creative threat

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Rob Howley has revealed that James Hook was close to being chosen at fly-half for Wales in the RBS Six Nations opener against England.

The 25-year-old has worn the number 10 jersey for his country before but has operated mainly in the centres in recent Tests.

For the clash at the Millennium Stadium on Friday night, he will play at full-back as Jamie Roberts partners Jonathan Davies in the midfield and Stephen Jones starts at stand-off.

But Wales backs coach Rob Howley says that Hook was being considered ahead of 95-cap veteran Jones after some impressive recent fly-half displays for the Ospreys.

Howley said: "We spoke about James going into 10. It was a long debate. We've gone for Test-experienced half-backs, two British and Irish Lions (Jones and Mike Phillips). Steve hasn't done anything wrong.

Creative

"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."

Jones has been a regular in the Wales set-up since making his Test debut in 1998 but insists he never takes his place in the side for granted.

Honour

"The way I look at it is it's always the same when I come into camp. It's a massive honour to be here and you never expect to be given the jersey," he said.

"If you are lucky enough to be given the honour, you make the most of that. You can't worry about external things, the things you can't control. All you can do is concentrate on your own performance."

Meanwhile, head coach Warren Gatland still thinks his front row can be effective, despite injured stars Gethin Jenkins and Adam Jones being replaced by Paul James and Craig Mitchell.

He said: "We see Paul James as a genuine loosehead and we wanted to leave him in that position.

"The thing with scrummaging at the moment, with the amount of re-sets in the game and penalties at scrum-time, the question is can you get an effective platform to work off?

"If you look at the game at the moment, there are probably only two or three opportunities during the game to get that platform. That will be key for both teams."

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