Six Nations: James Hook wants redemption after World Cup

James Hook
James Hook has won 59 Wales caps since his debut against Argentina in 2006

James Hook says his World Cup troubles are behind him as he prepares for Wales' Six Nations opener in Ireland.

The 26-year-old concedes he had a disappointing tournament although Wales earned plaudits for their fourth place.

Hook missed kicks against South Africa, semi-final rivals France and against Australia in their bronze medal match, but could return to fly-half if Rhys Priestland fails a fitness test.

"It was so disappointing for me and my family," Perpignan star Hook admitted.

"The semi-final was the lowest I have been after a game, without a doubt. You can't quite think straight for a while and going out to France was the best thing for me, probably.

"I was bitterly disappointed. I worked so hard for what is the pinnacle of international rugby and it didn't go well.

"But I have got over that now and it is about this Six Nations and beyond."

Hook completed his move to Perpignan from Ospreys on his return from the World Cup.

He was unavailable for Wales' Australia rematch in December due to his commitments in France but he could find himself filling the crucial fly-half position in Dublin on Sunday.

Wales' first-choice number 10 Priestland is battling to recover from a knee injury and Hook may be given a chance to make amends from his World Cup frustrations.

He missed six penalties and one conversion in three-and-a-half games at the World Cup, after starting the tournament at full-back and ending it playing fly-half.

The 59-times capped Welshman suffered a shoulder injury in their second pool game against Samoa and returned for a three-minute cameo as a replacement in Wales' World Cup quarter-final win over Ireland.

Hook played in his favoured fly-half position for their semi-final with France as he stood in for shoulder injury victim Priestland.

But Wales lost both the France clash and the bronze-medal decider against Australia when Hook was at number 10.

However, Hook is now playing every week at fly-half for Perpignan and Wales assistant coach Rob Howley feels that will benefit his international performances.

"Hook has been playing there much more regularly for Perpignan," said Howley.

"He is learning from playing week in week out in that position, which is so important for decision-making in the game.

"The one thing with James, when you look back at the performances at Rugby World Cup, he had not played number 10 for a period of time leading up to that game.

"But he has always played particularly well there and kicked well. We all don't perform well on occasions but whoever gets the opportunity will have to front up on the weekend."

Should Hook be involved on Sunday, he looks likely to be handed the goal-kicking duties, although Wales do have other options in Stephen Jones and Leigh Halfpenny.

But whoever is entrusted with the task has full backing from Wales kicking specialist Neil Jenkins.

"I was quite happy with our goal-kicking in the World Cup until the semi-final," Jenkins said. "The statistics were good in the pool stages - seven misses, compared to 13 in 2007.

"I was very pleased with the quarter-final (against Ireland) because the conditions in Wellington were some of the worst I had experienced.

"For some reason, it did not quite go our way in the semi-final.

"We do not want our kickers to miss kicks and they do not want to miss them, but at the end of the day stuff does happen. They work extremely hard and the semi-final was one of those days."