Hook, Jones and Wilkinson…

9 03 2011

Wales and Warren Gatland cannot seem to make up their mind about James Hook. Is he a 10? Is he a 13? Or even, possibly the biggest waste of his talent, perhaps a 15?

It is the curse of many a multi talented player that they end up being viewed as a ‘utility’ back, someone who can slot in at a moments notice to a number of positions – Austin Healey is one who suffered as such appearing on both wings, scrum half, 13 and even on one famous occasion in South Africa at 10. However Wales and Gatland need to heed this message before too long as to waste a talent as large as Hook possesses would be nigh on a criminal offence.

To be entirely fair to his competitor to the fly half slot in the Welsh XV, Stephen Jones, Hook has rightly been kept out of this role for some time. Jones, for all that some regard him to be quite a limited player, has been at the heart of the best of Welsh play for some time although now, with the older man faltering, it is the right thing to do to bring Hook in.

During last year’s tournament, Hook played exceptionally well at 13 showcasing exactly how dangerous a player he is going forward. If he can get extended game time in the ten position for club and country over the next 6 months, there is no reason at all why he should not transfer this to his new position and be Wales’ starting stand-off at the World Cup.

One thing is for sure – he has the ability.

********

A massive game this weekend for England at Twickenham. The Scots, so often England’s nemesis when a Grand Slam threatens, are in town and despite a poor tournament so far will not be a push over.

England are clear favourites for both this game and the tournament as a whole and if they play as they have done, there is no reason why they cannot put 30 points plus on the Scottish. This game is primarily a test of nerve, of character and inner steel which, should England pass, Ireland and a potential Grand Slam will await in Dublin.

On the subject of fly-halves, Martin Johnson will be pleased to have Flood back from injury for this encounter although we as ‘Jonny Lovers’ would like to see the Great Man get a starting berth before the end of the tournament.

It is true that Flood is playing excellent and exciting rugby yet we feel that Wilkinson’s time has not passed yet and that he was unfairly lampooned by a number of well known pundits and columnists over the first couple of years of Johnson’s regime. It was almost as if England’s problems, which clearly extended far past one player, were being laid almost entirely at the Toulon man’s door. One pundit in particular who shall remain nameless (although I will say he played at 10 for Bath) ¬†really tore into him.

However, just consider what else has gone right for England recently – a fully functioning line out and the emergence of some genuine world class players such as Dan Cole at scrum time, the maturing and increasingly authoritative play of players like Croft and Wood, the discovery of by far the best scrum half since Dawson retired and two flying wide players to go with the ever solid Cueto. Put Wilkinson in that mix and undoubtedly he would look good too…

Just a thought!

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