Sun, Feb 04, 2007 - Page 22 News List

Welsh star goes from Cardiff pub to pitch in two years

AFP , CARDIFF

It takes only minutes to walk from Cardiff's St Mary's Street to the Millennium Stadium. But it will have taken James Hook two years to make that journey by the time the 21-year-old center makes his Six Nations debut against Ireland in the Welsh capital today.

In 2005, Hook was one of the thousands of supporters who congregated in the pubs near the Millennium to celebrate his country's first Grand Slam in 27 years. Two years on and he is being compared to Wales legend Barry John.

"When Wales won the Grand Slam in 2005, I was actually in one of those pubs across the road from the stadium," Hook said.

"Like everyone else, I couldn't get a ticket but it was still great to see Wales winning the Grand Slam. It is surreal the way things have changed so quickly for me. Watching the match that day just inspired me to become part of the Six Nations and I am thrilled to bits now," he said.

Hook made his Wales debut on last year's tour of Argentina before he'd played a senior match for his club, the Ospreys.

Then came a stunningly composed display in Wales's draw at home to Australia in November that led to Hook's name being bracketed with some of the greats of the game when he came off the bench and turned in a masterful performance as an emergency fly-half after an injury to captain Stephen Jones.

Today's match will see Hook partnering Jamie Robinson in midfield. They will be up against two of the world's best centers in Gordon D'Arcy and Ireland captain Brian O'Driscoll and Hook can't wait.

"Those two are world class and because they play club and country together it gives them an extra bond which is priceless. But they have weaknesses in their game like everyone else and we will try to exploit those on Sunday," Hook said.

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