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Hook never lost faith

Published 04/08/2015

James Hook has a golden chance to press his World Cup claims in Wales' opening warm-up Test against Ireland
James Hook has a golden chance to press his World Cup claims in Wales' opening warm-up Test against Ireland

James Hook says that he has never contemplated quitting Test rugby - despite making just two starts for Wales since the last World Cup four years ago.

Gloucester fly-half Hook, though, admits that if he features in Wales head coach Warren Gatland's final squad for the England-hosted global spectacular that starts next month, it would "probably mean more" to him than his 2007 and 2011 World Cup selections.

Hook will start in the number 10 shirt against opening World Cup warm-up opponents Ireland on Saturday, winning his 78th cap, and it represents a golden opportunity for one of rugby union's free-spirited talents.

Hook, 30, started Wales' 2011 World Cup bronze medal match against Australia in Auckland, but only two more full Test appearances have followed - against the Barbarians and Tonga.

"I never thought of packing it in," he said.

"It does get tough, but when you see your mates out there you realise what a great atmosphere there is in the stadium with the Six Nations and the autumn Internationals. You never want to turn your back on that.

"You are disappointed to miss out, but that only drives you on to work that little bit harder. It has been tough, but that's sport and you get on with it.

"The build-up to the previous World Cup, you knew in the back of your head that if you keep fit you are probably going to go.

"This time, you are not certain and you work that little bit harder to try to make the squad, let alone the (match-day) 23. It does drive you on, and will probably mean more to me than the previous two World Cups."

Hook spent three seasons with French club Perpignan immediately after the last World Cup, then he joined Gloucester last year following Perpignan's relegation from the Top 14.

Gatland said: "Part of the reason why James hasn't had a frequent place in the team is the decision he made to leave Wales and go to France. He went to Perpignan, then wasn't selected as a 10 and ended up playing at full-back.

"He has been at Gloucester and wasn't playing particularly well for the first half of the season, but really improved his form towards the end of the campaign.

"It's a great chance for him on Saturday, with that experience that he has had and the maturity that he's got."

Hook's team-mates on Saturday will include his Gloucester colleague Ross Moriarty, who makes a Test debut after twice being part of World Cup-winning England Under-20 teams. His father Paul and uncle Richard both played for Wales.

Gatland added: "He (Moriarty) has an edge about him. He is still young, he is very explosive and he has forced his way into the Gloucester team. I am looking forward to seeing how he goes.

"I think he had a bit of a surprise when he came into the squad and saw how hard these players work. That took a few of the new boys a couple of days to come to terms with, but he has fitted in well in the time he's been with us."

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