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Hook hoping for Wales 'bonus'

James Hook claims it will be "a bonus" if Wales come calling for his services ahead of this year's World Cup.

The Gloucester fly-half has a golden opportunity to showcase his undisputed ability in Friday night's European Challenge Cup final against Edinburgh.

But although 29-year-old Hook has won 77 Test caps, he can reflect on just two starts for Wales - against the Barbarians and Tonga - since the last World Cup in 2011.

Given Hook's quality at fly-half, centre and full-back, it is baffling to the layman that Wales head coach Warren Gatland cannot find room for him in his matchday 23 or wider squads.

Gareth Anscombe is being widely touted as Wales' likely World Cup utility back, suggesting that even if Hook makes a 45-man training squad to be announced in early June, Gatland's final 31-man cut could prove beyond him.

Asked about his Wales ambitions, Hook said: "I always hope, but it is out of my hands. I have not had any contact or anything.

"It has probably helped me because I have focused on Gloucester and not thought about Wales.

"I do hope I get a shout from Wales at some point, but it has not happened for a while and I am not expecting it. If it does happen, great, if not ...."

Hook, who made his Wales debut almost nine years ago and has featured in two World Cup campaigns, is philosophical about the current state of play.

"Rob Howley (Wales assistant coach) spoke to me last autumn about straightening up and things like that, so I am trying to bring that into my game," Hook added.

"But other than that, I am trying to focus on what I have got to do here (at Gloucester), rather than what they want me to do.

"Wales play direct, and I would like to think I could fit into that if needed. I am more of a heads-up player, but I can stick to a structure if needed.

"In the past, you think a lot about the World Cup as it comes up, but not being in the squad has helped me take my focus off it and I am just enjoying my time with Gloucester and not thinking about Wales, in a way.

"I have taken the pressure off myself. I am not expecting anything to happen, and if it did, it would be a bonus.

"It is the first time in my career that has happened, which is frustrating because you want to be in there, but you get over it and focus on what you have to do. At 29, I should be in my prime, but that is the way it goes."

Top of Hook's immediate agenda will be to help Gloucester in their quest for European silverware, and that prospect is in stark contrast to his emotions 12 months ago with French club Perpignan.

It is almost a year to the day since Perpignan were relegated from the Top 14 - the first time in their 103-year history they had suffered such an ignominy - and Hook was to sign for Gloucester just a month later.

"It was difficult then for Perpignan, and it is nice to be here with the chance to win something," he said. "It is a chance to go from relegation to a European final.

"It was disappointing how it ended in France, but this is a new challenge and we have been building throughout the season.

"I am improving game on game. Maybe I am a bit wiser now, and the more games I get at 10, the better I will become.

"David Humphreys (Gloucester rugby director) has given me that opportunity at fly-half, even when it was not going so well at the beginning of the season.

"He stuck with me, where other coaches may have shuffled me around a bit. I appreciate that, and I am trying to repay him with my performances.

"He has given me licence to bring my qualities into play, whether it is making a break or playing what I see. You have to play within the structure, and it is making the right decisions at the right time."

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