Wales spring Hook surprise
June 1, 2010
James Hook will start for Wales against South Africa © Getty Images
James Hook will start for Wales against South Africa on Saturday after making a last-minute plea to selectors to be allowed to play.
The Ospreys utility will wear No.13 against the Springboks before missing Tests against New Zealand to undergo shoulder surgery on a long-standing problem. The news is less positive on the wing however, with record try-scorer Shane Williams out of the tour due to a shoulder injury.
Williams' place out wide against the Boks will be taken by Leigh Halfpenny while on the other wing teenager Tom Prydie will win his second cap after becoming Wales' youngest Test player in the final game of the Six Nations against Italy. Hook joins Jamie Roberts in midfield while Stephen Jones and Mike Phillips are retained at halfback.
"James is desperate to play and it just shows how much it means to him to put that red jersey on," Wales head coach Warren Gatland said. "We are obviously delighted have him and would particularly like to thank Scott Johnson and Andrew Hore at the Ospreys who have helped to make it possible.
"You only have to look at the Man of the Match and player of the year awards James has been picking up to see what a great asset he is to any team and we will be facing the World Champions a stronger team because of his involvement."
In the pack there are changes as Deiniol Jones returns to the second-row in place of the injured Luke Charteris, keeping Osprey Alun Wyn Jones on the bench. Paul James deputises for Gethin Jenkins after the Blues loose-head was ruled out with a calf problem. On the bench, Andy Powell returns from injury and is in line for a first taste of Test rugby since his arrest for drink-driving during the Six Nations.
Newport Gwent Dragons wing Will Harries has been called up in place of Williams and will tour New Zealand after an excellent season at domestic level.
"Will has been going extremely well in training and he is a real young talent, one of the uncapped players to be making the trip and he will hopefully learn a lot and continue to put pressure on the rest of the back three," assistant coach Rob Howley said.
Wales: L Byrne; L Halfpenny, J Hook, J Roberts, T Prydie, S Jones, M Phillips; P James, M Rees, A Jones, B Davies, D Jones, J Thomas, S Warburton, R Jones (capt)
Replacements: H Bennett, J Yapp, AW Jones, A Powell, R Rees, D Biggar, A Bishop
Huw Richards assesses where Wales are after a mixed Six Nations, with front row seats still very much available for the World Cup
John Mitchell lapped up the action on 'Sensational Saturday' - but warns not to expect a repeat come Rugby World Cup time later this year
Craig Dowd warns England, Ireland and Wales they should play to their strengths rather than those of the All Blacks and the Wallabies
Tom Hamilton runs the rule over just where the six countries stand ahead of the global gathering in September