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 7s Manager Steff Thomas believes Luke Treharne has all the attriubutes to be a top class captain. WRU TV's Graeme Gillespie hears his reasons why as the squad prepare for the opening two legs of the new World Series in Dubai and South Africa.
The British & Irish Cup kicks off this weekend with the four Regional Premiership Select XVs flying the flag for Wales. Welsh
Sat 14 Nov: Blues Premiership Select v Nottingham (2.30) & Connacht Eagles v Dragons (2.30)
Sun 15 Nov: Yorkshire Carnegie v Ospreys Premiership Select (1.30) & Scarlets v Bedford Blues (3.00)
The Welsh Rugby Union is forming a new Youth Board with a brief to help keep more young people involved in the game during their late teenage years and beyond. The first task of the fifteen strong Board will be to analyse and consider the issues which lead to a number of youngsters drifting away from the sport between the ages of 16 and 21. To apply visit www.wru.wales/youthboard
The Foster's Challenge Cup will involve the 12 Principality Premiership sides and will run during European and British & Irish Cup weeks, providing vital fixtures for the participating clubs and an opportunity for upcoming players to step up to semi-professional rugby and make a claim for starting places within the Premiership squads.
Eighty schools and colleges in Wales now have a full time rugby officer as part of the WRU's school club hub scheme. All of the school club hub officers recently gathered at the National Centre of Excellence for various workshops.
With Liam Williams forced out of the World Cup through injury, lock Luke Charteris and Skills Coach Neil Jenkins say they have to put yesterday's defeat behind them as Wales now look ahead to another physical encounter against South Africa in the quarter-finals of the Rugby World Cup.
WRU Consultant Head of Physical Performance Paul Stridgeon praises the Physical Performance department for their work and dedication as he addresses the media ahead of Wales' Pool A clash against Australia
Twelve young people have been selected to follow a one year WRU Coach Core apprenticeship programme. Coach Core was set up by the Royal Foundation of the Duke and Duchess of Cambridge and Prince Harry as part of the Olympics legacy in 2012 and the Duke of Cambridge was on hand to meet the apprentices on their first day in the job. The programme has been funded by the Hunter Foundation.