Wales v England, Six Nations, Millennium Stadium, February 4
Hook drafted in at fullback by Wales
ESPNscrum Staff
February 2, 2011
Wales fullback James Hook prepares to pass during training, Wales Captain's run, Millennium Stadium, Cardiff, Wales, November 5, 2010
James Hook starts at fullback for Wales © Getty Images

Wales coach Warren Gatland has gambled by selecting James Hook at fullback for their Six Nations curtain-raiser against England at the Millennium Stadium on Friday.

The Perpignan-bound playmaker has ousted Lee Byrne from the starting line-up, with Jamie Roberts and Jonathan Davies paired in midfield.

Davies' Scarlets team-mate, Morgan Stoddart, starts on the wing following an injury to Leigh Halfpenny, with Shane Williams completing the back-three.

Halfpenny's ankle problem was the latest to hit an injury-ravaged squad, with Gatland unable to call on British & Irish Lions props Gethin Jenkins and Adam Jones as well as wing George North, centres Tom Shanklin and Andrew Bishop and banned scrum-half Richie Rees.

As a result of injuries to Jenkins and Jones there are starts for Ospreys props Paul James and Craig Mitchell, while Wasps No.8 Andy Powell is recalled to the starting line-up alongside flankers Dan Lydiate and Sam Warburton.

There is one new face among the 22 as Scarlets fly-half Rhys Priestland is set for a Test bow off the bench.

Wales go into the England clash having lost six and drawn one of their last seven Tests. They have not won since the final weekend of last season's Six Nations tournament.

"We did debate selection at fly-half and elsewhere in the backs but we feel we have settled on the right pairing there with the experience they offer," assistant coach Rob Howley said.

"Lee Byrne misses out solely by virtue of the fact he has had limited game time after injury and he will offer us some impact from the bench, which is fairly experienced in itself and will undoubtedly be utilised during the evening.

"In the front-row we have two guys who have done well at regional level and know each other's games either side of our leader and the Lions hooker in Matthew Rees, so we are comfortable with the selection."

Wales: J Hook (Ospreys); M Stoddart (Scarlets), J Roberts (Cardiff Blues), J Davies (Scarlets), S Williams (Ospreys); S Jones (Scarlets), M Phillips (Ospreys); P James (Ospreys), M Rees (Scarlets, capt), C Mitchell (Ospreys), B Davies (Cardiff Blues), A-W Jones (Ospreys), D Lydiate (Newport Gwent Dragons), S Warburton (Cardiff Blues), A Powell (Wasps)

Replacements (TBC): R Hibbard (Ospreys), J Yapp (Cardiff Blues), R Jones (Ospreys), J Thomas (Ospreys), D Peel (Sale Sharks), R Priestland (Scarlets), L Byrne (Ospreys)

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