Hook set to retain No.10 shirt
February 18, 2011
James Hook steered Wales to a much-needed victory over Scotland last time out © Getty Images
James Hook looks set to fill the No.10 shirt once again when Wales resume their Six Nations campaign against Italy in Rome next week.
The Perpignan-bound playmaker steered Wales to a much-needed victory over Scotland last weekend with a commanding display during which he kicked 14 points and created wing Shane Williams' opening try. It was Hook's first start in the No.10 shirt since the 2009 Six Nations but such was his impact he looks set to be handed the team's reins once again against the Azzurri.
"I thought his balance and mix of game early on when we had control of the ball was excellent," said Wales attack coach Rob Howley. "It is very difficult when you haven't started an international there for that period of time, but we were pleased with how James went. He was quite critical about his own performance, which is actually good from a coach's perspective. I'm sure he will want to start at 10 again next Saturday."
Gatland is due to name his line-up for Italy next Tuesday, with Wales' hosts aiming to bounce back from a 59-13 drubbing against England just a week after they almost beat Ireland. Howley, meanwhile, has reiterated the Wales management's stance on players who decide to ply their trade in other countries.
Hook and current Wales fullback Lee Byrne will follow Gavin Henson to the French Top 14 next term, while Williams has been strongly linked with a move away from the Ospreys and prop Craig Mitchell is thought to be a target for Aviva Premiership newcomers Exeter.
"All the way along, we've said we want as many players playing in Wales as possible," Howley added. "They have their own decisions to make as players, and what we've said is that if a player is of like ability with someone playing outside of Wales, we want to support our Welsh regions.
"We have a little bit better control of players who are playing in Wales, and with our fitness guys going out into the regions, that is obviously a factor. When you see players going to England or France, yes it is a cause of concern, but ultimately we need to support the regions. We haven't changed our policy in the last two or three years."
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