Wales v New Zealand, Millennium Stadium, November 7
Fullback slot holds no fear for Hook
November 2, 2009
James Hook is excited by the visit of the All Blacks © Getty Images
James Hook has no reservations about stepping in at fullback for Wales' Test against New Zealand at the Millennium Stadium on Saturday, insisting that he is ready for any aerial bombardment that the All Blacks are lining up for him.
Hook, who has 32 caps at fly-half or centre and one at fullback, has been using the advice of injured Ospreys team-mate Lee Byrne as he prepares to slot in to a back-three alongside Leigh Halfpenny and Shane Williams.
"I know 15 is not my regular position, but I am just happy to be playing. I am excited about it," he added. "It's obviously a different role from 10 or 12, but in the modern game you find yourself at 10 back a lot taking high balls, just as a fullback would. I spoke with Lee last week, and I have been watching his games over the past season for Wales - it's a big help."
Hook is also well aware of the significance that the All Blacks' visit has, with Wales still searching for their first victory since Bleddyn Williams led them to a 13-8 win at the National Stadium in 1953.
"For years and years they have been up there as the best team in the world, more or less," said Hook. "That is probably why they are so intimidating. As a player though, you enjoy it. You want to get out there and challenge yourself against world-class opposition.
"It's a massive incentive for us to beat New Zealand, having not done it since 1953. Last season, we ran them close, and people are saying we've got a good chance of beating them this year because they have got injuries and suspensions, but they are still a formidable outfit. They are the type of team that lets other teams make mistakes - then they pounce. We are aware of that."
Wales' Kiwi coach Warren Gatland has begun the war of words ahead of the game by saying that the All Blacks have lost their 'aura', but is also well aware of the challenge posed by the tourists.
"They are still incredibly well respected, they traditionally play the best rugby. More often than any other team, they are ranked the best in the world," he said. "During the next 12 months we play the All Blacks four times, we've got two games against South Africa and two against Australia.
"We are not running away. We want to play against the best teams in the world. Yes, it's been since 1953 since Wales have beaten the All Blacks, and I definitely think in the past there was that aura of the All Blacks.
"But if you go out there and you don't believe you have got a chance, then you might as well pack up and go home now. It is part of my job to instil that belief. I am well aware of the history in this fixture - I got brought up on the traditions of the All Blacks playing the Welsh."