James Hook's creativity can spark Wales, says Tom Shanklin

James Hook
James Hook

Former Lions centre Tom Shanklin says back James Hook could provide a creative spark for Wales, but doubts coach Warren Gatland will select him.

Perpignan fly-half Hook played only 28 minutes during the 2014 Six Nations, coming off the bench in Wales' 51-3 victory over Scotland.

Shanklin confesses to be a "big fan" of Hook, but fears the Wales management do not share that opinion.

"I don't think he is going to feature under Warren Gatland," he said.

"It's Warren Gatland's opinion and he has been very successful with the team and the players he has picked.

"I still think there is room for him [Hook]."

Wales, who won a Grand Slam in 2012 and the Six Nations title in 2013, were chasing an unprecedented third title in 2014, but finished third.

Hook has fallen out of favour since being selected as fly-half for Gatland's first game in charge - the first win against England at Twickenham for 20 years - in 2008.

He has started only two games for Wales since October 2011 - the last coming in the 17-7 win over Tonga in November, 2013.

Full-back Leigh Halfpenny is ruled out of the tour to South Africa with a shoulder injury and Hook has been mooted as candidate to replace him against the Springboks.

Scarlets' Liam Williams - who was man of the match in Wales' 51-3 win over Scotland - is also a strong candidate to continue at 15 on the tour.

Wales take on South Africa in two Tests, in Durban on Saturday, 14 June and at Mbombela Stadium, Nelspruit seven days later.

Williams and Hook could be up against each other if a proposed Wales trial before the tour goes ahead.

Shanklin, who won 70 Wales caps before his injury-enforced retirement in 2011, played with Hook in Wales' 2008 Grand Slam campaign.

He compares Hook's ability to creative space for players around him to Australia's playmaker Quade Cooper and former Welsh international centre Gavin Henson, Shanklin's centre partner in the Wales Grand Slams of 2005 and 2008.

"I am a big fan of James Hook, played with him and against him, and I know what he can do and his skills set and he is a bit off the cuff," said Shanklin.

"So is Quade Cooper...he is a player who will try anything from anywhere.

"It is always nice to play with a fly-half where you are not sure what is going to happen and you can run off them.

"It must be worse as a defender. Certain players are not really a threat with the ball in hand and you don't really have to mark them.

"When James Hook has the ball in his hands, it's like Gavin Henson, defenders home in on them because they know they can do damage and it creates space elsewhere."

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