Wales v France, Rugby World Cup, October 15, 2011
Hook ready to fill fly-half void
October 12, 2011
Hook is equally adept at fullback and fly-half © Getty Images
Wales' James Hook is ready to step into the fly-half berth if Rhys Priestland fails to recover from his shoulder injury.
Coach Warren Gatland will name his team on Thursday for the biggest game in Welsh rugby history. And both Hook and 102 times-capped Stephen Jones are waiting to discover if fly-half incumbent Rhys Priestland will recover in time for Saturday's Eden Park showdown.
Priestland took a knock during the closing minutes of Wales' quarter-final victory over Ireland in Wellington last weekend, while lock Luke Charteris also suffered a shoulder injury and was forced off at half-time. Gatland is set to field an unchanged team if both players are declared fit.
"I would be there if needed and selected," said Hook, who was Wales' full-back for their opening two World Cup games until a shoulder problem sidelined him. He returned to action from the bench against Ireland. It was really difficult (watching on Saturday), but you get caught in the emotion on the bench and get behind the boys.
"It was a terrific performance and it was nice to get on and have a couple of minutes to savour a little bit at the end. Rhys has taken his chance superbly, and he fully deserves the credit he has been having.
"The young players spur you on with the energy they bring in training and off the field. The older boys are feeding off that, which is good and healthy for the team."
Hook, meanwhile, has played enough times against France to know Les Bleus will pose a significant challenge as Wales target a World Cup final appearance against Australia or New Zealand. "France were great against England on Saturday," he added. "They were clinical, took their chances well, kicked their goals and looked strong from the start. Everyone knows about French flair and their unpredictability.
"Every team builds momentum by winning, and we got confidence from putting 80 and 60 points on sides in our group. We have probably surprised ourselves a little bit, but surprised other people a lot more.
"It has been bubbling for a couple of years, and we have put in error-free performances that have got us the results. There is more excitement than nerves this week. No one in the squad has been in this position before.
"I suppose there will be a lot of nerves as we come closer to the game, but we have to go out there and enjoy it, savour the moment and keep doing what we have been doing. We have to try and relax and believe in our own ability, so that when the game comes round your instincts will take over."
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