Hook wants one big scalp
October 26, 2010
James Hook believes he is well prepared to stand in at fullback for Wales if called on © Getty Images
James Hook has called on Wales to take at least one big scalp in their upcoming tests to build confidence ahead of next year's World Cup.
Wales will host Tri Nations visitors Australia, South Africa and New Zealand, plus their 2007 World Cup conquerors Fiji, next month. Hook, who could receive an SOS from coach Warren Gatland after Lee Byrnes' injury, admits Wales probably won't come through that schedule unbeaten, but he believes one or two big victories would do the team a world of good.
Since Warren Gatland was appointed Wales coach in time for the 2008 Six Nations campaign, Wales have played the Tri Nations heavyweights nine times, but recorded just a solitary victory against Australia two years ago. With the 2011 World Cup looming, the November schedule provides an ideal opportunity for Wales to make a statement.
"We've got to try to beat one of these big teams - we want to win them all, obviously - but we need to win at least one or two to put us in good stead for the Six Nations and then on to the World Cup next year," said Ospreys star Hook.
"If you look at the games, we are not far away. It's a silly penalty, a silly mistake now and again that has cost us. We just need to believe in ourselves. We know we can beat these teams, and we've got to believe from the start. These are massive games for us. We want to try to get a big scalp and get something out of these autumn internationals."
Hook, meanwhile, could be called up by Gatland as a late replacement for the second successive autumn series. Byrne's broken hand, an injury suffered on Magners League duty for the Ospreys against Glasgow two days ago, might result in Hook being handed the number 15 shirt.
If Gatland decides on that course of action, then it would be a repeat of last year's autumn programme when Byrne was injured and Hook stepped in before emerging as arguably Wales' most consistent player during that four-Test schedule.
Gatland is also set to assess the merits of full-back alternatives like Leigh Halfpenny, Tom Prydie, Chris Czekaj and Will Harries, but Hook could easily find himself in pole position for Australia's Millennium Stadium visit on November 6.
"It is a possibility with Lee being out," added Hook, reflecting on Byrne's fitness setback. "It is the same sort of situation as last year. We've got two weeks of training before the first game against Australia. This time last year, I didn't have much experience of full-back, so I was thrown in at the deep end a little bit. But I've got that much more experience of full-back now, if I am called upon.
"At the end of the day, I look back a couple of years ago when I was on the bench for most of the Six Nations and the autumn Tests - that's a lot more frustrating. As long as I am playing, I am happy, whether it's centre, outside-half or full-back."
© ESPN Sports Media Ltd.
John Taylor argues the world's best XVs players must be given a chance to play in the Olympics to increase the appeal of the game
The All Blacks' form is not a peaking issue, but Hansen must threaten to wield his axe, to demand improvement, Craig Dowd writes
"It has been the World Cup that smashed down the gender barriers of the sport." Tom Hamilton looks back at a remarkable tournament
A selection of the best pictures from England's historic World Cup triumph in Paris as they beat Canada 21-9