Wales v England, Six Nations, Millennium Stadium, February 4
Howley: Hook making a case at 10
ESPNscrum Staff
February 2, 2011
Wales centre James Hook , Wales v South Africa, Millennium Stadium, Cardiff, Wales, November 13, 2010
James Hook starts at fullback for Wales © Getty Images

Wales' coaching staff held a "long debate" about handing James Hook the fly-half role for their Six Nations showdown against England at the Millennium Stadium on Friday night.

The Perpignan-bound playmaker has been selected at fullback ahead of Lee Byrne for the tournament opener, with Stephen Jones taking the No.10 jersey, but backs coach Rob Howley admitted that he had made a strong case following recent cameos for the Ospreys.

"We spoke about James going into 10," he said. "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.

"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."

The other major bone of contention for Wales came in the front-row, where Ospreys duo Paul James and Craig Mitchell were given the nod to deputise for injured Lions props Gethin Jenkins and Adam Jones.

"We were really impressed with the way the Ospreys scrummaged against Toulon [in the Heineken Cup]," Gatland said. "We see Paul James as a genuine loose-head 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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