Hook out to make amends
August 17, 2011
Hook crossed the line for Wales' only try against England on Saturday © Getty Images
Wales' James Hook is looking to right the wrongs of the 2007 campaign as he goes into the forthcoming World Cup.
Hook struggles not to wince when recalling the shock 38-34 defeat against Fiji in Nantes that sent Wales home before the quarter-finals and cost coach Gareth Jenkins his job. The Perpignan-bound playmaker is likely to be one of only five survivors from that starting XV who will feature in current boss Warren Gatland's 30-man World Cup squad when it is announced next Monday.
And while time is said to be a great healer, Hook makes an exception when he recalls events at Stade de la Beaujoire on September 29, 2007.
"The disappointment of that World Cup is still in the back of minds," he said. "We want to go out to New Zealand and prove to ourselves and the Wales fans that we are a better team than we were in 2007. It's putting a few wrongs to right.
"The game has moved on a heck of a lot since then. The patterns we are using now are completely different to what we were playing then. At the moment, we are in a better position to what we were."
Hook will win his 54th cap in Saturday's final World Cup warm-up encounter against Millennium Stadium visitors Argentina, having been charged by Gatland with pulling the strings from fly-half. Last weekend against England, he delivered a match-winning display from full-back, scoring the only try of an intense contest and kicking two long-range penalties that sealed Wales' victory.
The 26-year-old also provides Gatland with options in both centre positions, making him a priceless commodity for Wales as they build towards World Cup pool appointments with South Africa, Samoa, Namibia and Fiji. "I am used to it now," added Hook, pondering his latest switch of roles. "It's exciting to be back at 10 this week, and hopefully we can keep the momentum going.
"The French game (Hook's last Wales outing at number 10 in March) wasn't a great performance by myself or the team, but it is not about looking back. I've had a few starts at fullback now. It takes the breath away a bit with all the running and stuff, but other than that I feel comfortable there.
"And if Warren feels 12 is the position for me, so be it. I played the last couple of years with the Ospreys at 12. It's not up to me to pick and choose. Whatever position I am called on to fill, I will try to fill it to the best of my ability. It's important to me to play well for Wales, and I am hugely excited about the World Cup."
Hook is ahead of the game with regard to his pending move to the south of France, having already found a house with his wife Kim and learning French courtesy of regular weekly lessons. A lucrative three-year deal could easily distract the most committed and focused of players, but Hook's thoughts are only on the World Cup and Wales making an impact following pool-stage exits in 1991, 1995 and 2007.
"Just before the Poland training trips with Wales last month, I went out to France to sort the house out and meet the coach," he said. "I am putting that to the back of my mind now and concentrating on the World Cup.
"We have played South Africa (Wales' opening World Cup opponents in Wellington on September 11) a lot of times and come close to winning. We know they have a massive pack that comes directly at you.
"But we showed against England last Saturday we can cope with that physicality. England didn't finish off their chances, so we've got to cut the line-breaks out that were made against us. We've got the players to win big games, though, and the boys will definitely go into Saturday's match against Argentina with a lot of confidence.
"If we can get two big wins under our belt going into the South Africa game, it would be massive for us."
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