Rugby World Cup 2015: James Hook can leave Wales coach with a selection dilemma

The stage is set for a vintage Hook performance

Click to follow
The Independent Online

World Cup warm-up games were designed to solve problems, not create them, but every now and again a national coach finds himself wondering what the hell he might do if things go right.

Warren Gatland, preparing to lead Wales into a global tournament for a second time, will find himself in this precise position if James Hook, one of the richest talents to be found west of the River Severn, inspires a side full of babes in arms to victory over a battle-hardened Ireland at the Millennium Stadium this afternoon.

Hook has bags of international experience – he was a touring Lion in South Africa six years ago – but his recent sojourns in France, with Perpignan, and in England, with Gloucester, have reinforced the impression that his playmaking brilliance is better appreciated outside his land than within it.

Even though he starts the game in  the fabled No 10 shirt, there are many in Welsh circles who expect the Bath-bound Rhys Priestland or the imported New Zealand outside-half Gareth Anscombe to make the World Cup squad ahead of him.

All things considered, then, the stage is set for a vintage Hook performance: one that will make Gatland swallow hard before ushering him towards the exit door.

As Ireland also have a No 10 with vast amounts to prove in Paddy Jackson – the Ulsterman must beat Ian Madigan of Leinster to the punch if he is to provide back-up for Jonathan Sexton when the serious stuff unfolds next month – the contest at the creative hub will be fascinating. As will the performances of a fistful of Welsh debutants: the wing Eli Walker, the centre Tyler Morgan, the lock Dominic Day and the ultra-aggressive flanker Ross Moriarty, born into a family of renowned union hard nuts.

Millennium Stadium teams (Saturday, 2.30pm)

Wales H Amos; A Cuthbert, T Morgan, S Williams (capt), E Walker; J Hook, M Phillips; N Smith, R Hibbard, A Jarvis, J Ball, D Day, R Moriarty, J Tipuric, D Baker. Replacements R Evans, K Dacey, S Andrews, J King, T Faletau, L Williams, G Anscombe, M Morgan.

Ireland F Jones; A Trimble, K Earls, D Cave, F McFadden; P Jackson, E Reddan; J McGrath, R Strauss, M Ross, D Ryan, I Henderson, J Murphy, T O’Donnell, J Heaslip (capt). Replacements R Best, D Kilcoyne, M Bent, D Tuohy, C Henry, K Marmion, I Madigan, S Zebo.

Referee G Jackson (New Zealand).

Comments