Six Nations: Phil Bennett wants Stephen Jones Wales call

Stephen Jones and James Hook
Jones and Hook were fly-half deputies to Rhys Priestland at the World Cup

Phil Bennett has urged Wales to call-up veteran fly-half Stephen Jones as cover for their Six Nations opener in Ireland if Rhys Priestland is out injured.

Wales great Bennett insists James Hook should start in Dublin if Priestland fails to recover from knee trouble.

But Bennett feels having the experience of 34-year-old Jones on the bench could be crucial against an Irish side looking for World Cup "revenge."

"Stephen Jones has a key part to play in this Six Nations," said Bennett.

"I believe we have to go Ireland with experience because Ireland will come out all guns blazing because they want revenge."

Jones is Wales' most-capped international with 104 caps but was omitted from Warren Gatland's Six Nations training squad as the Wales coach looks to develop his young players looking ahead to the 2015 World Cup.

Gatland insisted Scarlets number 10 Jones had not retired from international rugby and was still available for selection if required - and the head coach has conceded that Priestland is struggling for the 5 February Six Nations opener in Dublin.

Wales are already without prop Gethin Jenkins and locks Alun Wyn Jones and Luke Charteris for the trip to Ireland while Gatland also has doubts over flanker Dan Lydiate (ankle) and centre (knee).

So Bennett insists Wales need Jones' knowledge and experience, especially with Priestland out and Hook as the only other recognised fly-half in the squad.

"If Rhys Priestland does miss the match then it has to be James Hook to start but Stephen Jones on the bench," Bennett told BBC Radio Wales.

"James has moved to Perpignan to play number 10 and although Perpignan are not doing well, he is kicking goals and playing well.

"But I would definitely have Stephen in the squad."

Gavin Henson is in the Wales squad and has played at fly-half but the versatile Blues back has only played three times this season, twice at full-back and once in the centre.

And Bennett "doesn't feel the time is right" for Henson to play at number 10, adding: "What an ask to to go to Dublin, step in at number 10 and control the game."

Bennett believes Ryan Jones should replace Lydiate if the Dragons blind-side flanker, who was helped off the field in their Amlin Cup win over Cavalieri Prato 45-16 last weekend, is ruled out of the trip to Ireland as the 30-year-old's experience would benefit a depleted Wales pack.

Scarlets flanker Aaron Shingler and Andy Powell could also line up alongside in-form number eight Toby Faletau and captain Sam Warburton in the Wales back row.

But Bennett said: "To play in that cauldron which is Dublin, it will have to be Ryan Jones.

"It will be a big blow if we lost Dan Lydiate but Ryan Jones is playing superb rugby, he's looking refreshed and he would go in at blind-side for me if Lydiate drops out."

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