Hook aims to grab chance
James Hook is ready to take his opportunity when Wales face Italy on Saturday.
Last Updated: 12/03/09 6:54pm
Wales fly-half James Hook is aiming to impress after being handed his first start of the RBS Six Nations against Italy in Rome on Saturday.
The Ospreys playmaker has been part of the supporting cast from the bench during the first three rounds of the competition.
His international ambitions have been frustrated by Scarlets rival Stephen Jones, who has been head coach Warren Gatland's preferred option in the number 10 shirt since the autumn Tests.
But Hook is one of 12 changes to Gatland's starting XV to face Italy, giving the 23-year-old an opportunity to press his claims for the probable Six Nations title showdown with Ireland next week.
"This is a chance now to show what I can do," Hook said. "Hopefully I can put myself in contention for the following week as well.
"I am really pleased to be back. It's been difficult these last few weeks to budge Stephen because he's been playing so well.
"It has been frustrating because you want to play in every game, but you just have to accept things and knuckle down.
"I've not played much rugby of late and training is nowhere near as good as playing.
"But I just hope I am ready for Test match rugby. I'm confident that I am."
Wales arrived in a warm and sunny Italian capital on Thursday, knowing they must not only record an eighth Six Nations victory from nine starts since Gatland took charge, but also win with something to spare.
Their points difference is currently 23 worse than Ireland's so a repeat of the 38-8 success during Wales' 2005 Six Nations title campaign would considerably help their cause.
Gatland is looking for the likes of Hook, props John Yapp and Rhys Thomas, lock Luke Charteris and flanker Dafydd Jones to grasp their opportunities in the spotlight.
"There was probably a little bit of surprise about the number of changes made to the side but I don't really think you could call it a gamble on Warren's part," Hook added.
"He has faith in all of us as players or he wouldn't have made these changes.
"We made too many mistakes in the French game (two weeks ago). There were four errors in quick succession leading up to one try, yet we could still have won the game.
"So against Italy it will be about us cutting out the mistakes.
"Italy are maybe not as gifted as other teams in the Six Nations but they are a gutsy side, especially at home. They give 100 percent every game.
"I've already heard someone talk about points differences but we have to get out there and win the game first. Then, hopefully, everything else will follow."
Hook will link up with fellow Osprey Gavin Henson for the first time this season in a Wales starting line-up - and their 10/12 axis is critical to the visitors creating sufficient try-scoring chances.
It could also be a prelude to events with the British and Irish Lions in South Africa later this year.
"Gavin is the type of player who as soon as he is fit is able to come back and play well immediately," Hook continued.
"I am comfortable playing next to him, and I know the feeling is mutual."
As for the Lions tour, Hook commented: "It is in the back of my mind as it is coming to the end of the championship.
"But I am not thinking too much about a Lions place, I am thinking more about getting a Wales place."