Rugby World Cup 2011: Jonathan Davies urges Wales full-back switch

Wales full-back James Hook competes for the ball with South Africa fly-half Morne Steyn
Wales full-back James Hook competes with South Africa fly-half Morne Steyn

Former Wales dual-code international Jonathan Davies has urged Wales to relieve James Hook of full-back duties.

Hook, 26, played at 15 in Wales' 17-16 loss to South Africa in their opening World Cup match in Wellington.

Davies praised Rhys Priestland at fly-half against the Springboks but said he may have to be sacrificed for Sunday's second Pool D clash against Samoa.

"James Hook looked like a duck out of water at full-back, we miss his creativity [at 10]," Davies said.

"Rhys Priestland was very, very good [against South Africa] and it's a straight call between Hook and Priestland.

"I think that we need a full-back who is going to cut angles. I know Lee Byrne isn't playing with a lot of confidence, so chuck Leigh Halfpenny in."

Davies, speaking to BBC Wales' Scrum V programme, believes that a full-back other than Hook - who has played the majority of his rugby at fly-half or centre - may naturally run the lines of attack that a specialist 15 would.

South Africa came up quickly in defence to target Wales' ball-carriers and Davies feels that a runner coming from depth would have helped pin defenders in place.

"Fourie du Preez, the scrum-half, was spotting and coming in, so what we need is a guy with a bit of vision to stand back and say, 'right, I need a full-back to hit behind Du Preez and hit those angles'," Davies added.

"If we were narrow... it's easier to defend, we need to spread them [defences] out a little bit and if we play narrow against Samoa then they're going to absolutely rip into us.

"I would definitely change the full-back and get a guy who runs."

However, former Wales centre Tom Shanklin believes that the 15 players who started and performed so well against the defending champions - albeit still coming up agonisingly short - should keep their places against Samoa.

"Everyone deserves their place to play next week," Shanklin said.

"It was a tight game, it was always going to be a tight game but I think [against] Samoa, it will be open and I think Hooky will be able to get his hands on the ball a bit more.

"At the start of the tournament I thought we should have picked Lee Byrne [at full-back], but after the performance against South Africa I wouldn't change it."

Wales escaped with a clean bill of health after the bruising encounter against the Springboks and have been further boosted by the news that Stephen Jones and Gethin Jenkins have been passed fit to resume full training.

The British and Irish Lions pair have both been out with long-term injuries, fly-half Jones missing all three of Wales' warm-up Tests with a calf problem while prop Jenkins has not played since 7 January after toe surgery.

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