RUGBY : James Hook will start at full-back for Wales in their autumn Test opener against New Zealand at the Millennium Stadium.
James Hook will start at full-back for Wales in their autumn Test opener against New Zealand at the Millennium Stadium.
Wales boss Warren Gatland has turned to the versatile Hook as replacement for his fellow British and Irish Lion Lee Byrne, who misses the November schedule because of a foot injury.
In the forwards, Gatland has decided to keep Gethin Jenkins at loosehead prop – handing Ospreys forward Paul James the number three shirt for his second Welsh cap six years after his international debut. Elsewhere, there is a recall at scrum-half for Gareth Cooper, who takes over from the injured Mike Phillips, while wing Leigh Halfpenny also gains a start.
Scarlets’ Mark Jones, who had been expected to make the starting line-up, has been ruled out of the entire Test programme with a knee injury. Jones is awaiting a consultant’s verdict but is likely to require keyhole surgery.
Gatland said: “We wanted Gethin Jenkins to start, so it was a case of seeing which of the other three props stood out in training this week.
“Paul has edged it, and we know he won’t let us down.
“Elsewhere, the coaches have looked for consistency of selection.
“We have asked James to play at full-back before and it is a boost for any side to be able to have someone of his calibre on the field – in whatever position that may be.
“We have an experienced pairing at centre, two exciting wingers and the Lions playmaker running the back line at fly-half – so we think we have a pretty good side out there.”