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Gatland happy with hungry Hook

Wales boss Warren Gatland will welcome what he describes as a "desperate and hungry" James Hook into his squad for the autumn Tests.

But Gatland has also issued a general reminder about the importance of Wales' foreign contingent gaining full release for international periods.

Six of his 35-man squad that will prepare to face South Africa, Argentina, Tonga and Australia next month - including Perpignan star Hook - are not based in Wales.

While the likes of Northampton wing George North and Racing Metro flanker Dan Lydiate are available throughout the November series, Hook will not be around for the Wallabies clash, which falls outside the International Rugby Board's autumn Test window and clubs are therefore not obliged to release their players for that particular fixture.

Hook has not played for Wales against another Test-playing nation since the 2011 World Cup, although he now looks set to increase his tally of 70 caps during the next five weeks.

"James is desperate and hungry to come into the squad and perform well and show everyone he is as keen as ever to play for Wales. I was pleased to hear that from him," Gatland said.

"One of the frustrating things with James and his decision to go to France is that when he and I sat down and spoke about it I said 'if you are going to go to France, make sure you negotiate full release'.

"Other players have been able to do that, and with James not being fully available for all training and missing that last game in the autumn, it puts him at a disadvantage.

"If you are making a decision to go away, you have to make sure you don't disadvantage yourself.

"If you are going to go, the minimum is get full release. If you don't, you will put yourself at a disadvantage.

"We all know the problems with competing with the money that is offered overseas. That is one thing, but the message coming back is, yes, there is a lot of money involved, but everything else isn't always as good as what we can provide here in Wales for the players."

Gatland admits he is relishing being back on board with Wales after not being involved last season while he prepared to coach the British and Irish Lions in Australia.

In his absence, Wales experienced wildly-contrasting fortunes, losing all four of their November games last year under Rob Howley before bouncing back brilliantly to successfully defend the RBS 6 Nations title.

And Gatland is excited about what the future could hold for Wales as they build towards World Cup 2015 in England.

"It has been nice to get away from the over-hype of the Lions to come back here," Gatland added.

"That is a chapter that has passed, and now it is being excited about building up to 2015 and being excited about the squad we have at our disposal.

"If the players can stay fit, keep their form and with some youngsters coming in to put some pressure on, I think we are in a great position at the moment. We believe we can achieve something special for Welsh rugby.

"We think we have achieved a lot in the last few years and gone through some pretty good times. We think we can do better in the next few years as well.

"Looking at the profile and age of the side, then we should be confident for the next four, five, six years that we can go into games with a self-belief that we are good enough to win games and competitions.

"For me, it's not just about this period of the season, but making sure mentally that we are okay for the business end of the season and the Six Nations, which is so important."


From Belfast Telegraph