A surprise inclusion amongst the replacements for tonight's Magners League opener against Connacht in Galway, James Hook says that he's looking forward to pulling on an Ospreys shirt again this weekend.
With the Ospreys' Lions tourists expected to sit out the opening weeks of the season having not returned to pre-season training until August, the inclusion of Hook and fellow half-back Mike Phillips for the difficult trip to The Sportsground has certainly caused a few raised eyebrows outside of the Ospreys camp.
However, Hook himself says that he's feeling good after enjoying pre-season and is raring to go once more. He commented: "It's a little bit of a surprise to be involved in the first game of the season I suppose, I can see where people are coming from when they say that they were shocked to read the team, but everything's gone pretty well in training and I'm looking forward to it. I'm up to speed with the calls and the structures and everything, so I'm pretty much ready to play. I was probably looking at playing again next week or the week after anyway so it's no big change really for me to be on the bench this weekend.
"I'm at the stage now where I'm hitting the fitness targets so I'm just as well being involved in the game as sticking to training, now I can concentrate on getting my match fitness and sharpness where it should be. You can train all you want, there's nothing like getting match time under your belt so I'm looking forward to pulling on the Ospreys shirt and getting out there again at some stage. I know that it's one thing being eager to play, it's another actually being fit enough, but the coaching team are happy with my condition and feel that it's in my best interests to be playing again, and if I'm honest, I can't wait. There's nothing worse than being wrapped in cotton wool."
Hook will be well aware of the challenges that face the Ospreys in Galway, where the weather often provides as stern a challenge as the opposition, as was the case last September when he kicked 11 points as the Ospreys opened their season with a 16-3 win in Connacht, played out in monsoon conditions. He believes that after two good wins in pre-season, Friday's opposition will provide a real test to start the season:
"Connacht's a tough place to go, it's going to be hard out there, they are a physical side and you can pretty much guarantee that it's going to be windy and it's going to be wet. It was like that last year when we went out there for the first game of the season, but we handled the opposition and the conditions well to come out on top and we'll have to do the same again. We know it's going to be tough, it'll be a test, but we know what we have to do.
"It's important to start the season in the right way, and make a statement about where we are, so it's going to be an interesting game. The boys have had two great performances in pre-season against Guinness Premiership sides. I know that it was a bit mix and match with a lot of changes during the games, but to go away somewhere like Gloucester and get something there will certainly give us a lift and will help with the confidence ahead of a long and difficult season. What we need to do now is take that confidence into Friday's game and use it to kick on from there."
Wales reached their first semi-final since 2013 in the opening round of this season's HSBC World Rugby Sevens Series in Dubai. WRU TV's Graeme Gillespie recaps on what proved to be an eventful tournament
Wales and Ospreys back row James King, who came through the North Wales age grade system, nominated North Wales Regional Community Rugby Manager Marc Roberts, in the WRU's 'Diolch' initiative where squad players thanked those who played a part in their rise to the top.
Beating Merthyr has boosted Carmarthen Quins hopes of reaching a top eight spot in the Principality Premiership. Quins captain Haydn Pugh is delighted with his team's progress and is determined that everyone from the Under 6s through to the senior team, enjoys the ride.
When the Wales squad were asked to nominate individuals who played a big part in their early playing days, Wales and Dragons full back and wing Hallam Amos thought of his former Monmouth School rugby coach John Bevan.
Sam Cross and Luke Treharne have been named as co-captains of the Wales Sevens side as head coach Gareth Williams names his 12-man squad to play in the first leg of the HSBC World Series in Dubai next weekend.
Bedwas head coach Steve Law and players Nicky Griffiths and Alun Rees extol the virtues of the close knit club as they prepare to host third place RGC 1404 - who are one place head of them on the Principality Premiership points table - on Saturday.
Many of the Wales squad have said Diolch (thank you) to someone who played an important part in their early playing days by nominating them to be invited to the Wales v South Africa match. One person, Gowerton Comprehensive geography teacher Mr Dean Mason was nominated by two of his former pupils, Dan Biggar and Sam Davies.
The second WRU disability rugby pilot has been delivered, this time in Caerphilly schools, culminating in a festival at the Caerphilly Centre of Sporting Excellence, Ystrad Mynach tomorrow. Plans are in place to set up a Disability Rugby Club in Newbridge to provide long-term playing opportunities.
WRU TV: Hear from inside the Wales camp as Neil Jenkins discusses this weekend's clash with South Africa and how the squad are looking to put in a strong performance to round of the 2016 Under Armour Series