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Hook relishing return to international stage
ESPNscrum Staff
February 2, 2012
Wales fly-half James Hook lands an early penalty, Wales v France, Rugby World Cup semi-final, Eden Park, Auckland, New Zealand, October 15, 2011
Wales' James Hook is firmly focused on the future after a disappointing Rugby World Cup © Getty Images
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Wales' James Hook is relishing the chance to put his Rugby World Cup wobble behind him as his side prepare to kick off their Six Nations campaign against Ireland in Dublin.

The 26-year-old missed vital goal-kicks against South Africa, semi-final opponents France and during a bronze-medal match loss to Australia, while he also suffered a shoulder injury that meant an enforced post-World Cup lay-off. Hook was then unavailable for the Wallabies re-match in November due to commitments in France with his new club Perpignan, but with rival Rhys Priestland struggling with a knee injury he could find himself back in the playmaker role at the Aviva Stadium this weekend.

Reflecting on the World Cup from a personal perspective, Hook said: "It was so disappointing for me and my family. I was just keen to get over to France, get back on the pitch, go game by game and sort of forget about it. The semi-final was the lowest I have been after a game, without a doubt. You can't quite think straight for a while, and going out to France was the best thing for me, probably.

"I was bitterly disappointed. I worked so hard for what is the pinnacle of international rugby, and it didn't go well. But I have got over that now, and it is about this Six Nations and beyond."

Wales coach Warren Gatland has delayed announcing his team until Friday, but Hook has been preparing this week with a mindset of being in the starting XV. "I am just going about training as usual," he added. "We are not sure about the injuries just yet, but it is just the same as usual for me. It is about me training hard and playing wherever they want me.

"I am focused and always working hard in training and off the pitch. You have got to have the mindset of if you are going to be playing - it's the same for everyone in the squad. We know it is a huge game on Sunday. Ireland are a quality team, so we know we are in for a big test, but we will be working hard to try to get a win out there."

Hook has been a regular fixture in the Perpignan side since moving to France from the Ospreys, and he added: "I am playing every week in one position, and I am enjoying my rugby there. It is a complete culture change that I am enjoying and my family is enjoying. Where we are in the league is frustrating, but if we can get ourselves up the table a bit more, then everything will be going perfectly.

"I was worried how my wife and my little boy would settle in, but as soon we got there people were ringing us asking if we needed anything, and within a week or two we had friends all over Perpignan. It's quite a small town, but it's rugby-mad, a bit like a miniature Wales."

Should Hook be involved on Sunday, he looks likely to be handed the goalkicking duties, although Wales do have other options in Stephen Jones and Leigh Halfpenny. But whoever is entrusted with the task has full backing from Wales kicking specialist Neil Jenkins.

"I was quite happy with our goalkicking in the World Cup until the semi-final," Jenkins said. "The statistics were good in the pool stages - seven misses, compared to 13 in 2007. "I was very pleased with the quarter-final (against Ireland) because the conditions in Wellington were some of the worst I had experienced.

"For some reason, it did not quite go our way in the semi-final. We do not want our kickers to miss kicks, and they do not want to miss them, but at the end of the day stuff does happen. They work extremely hard, and the semi-final was one of those days."

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