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."
Whenever Bedlinog tackle Penallta a massive fixure is guaranteed but this Sunday there will be even more emphasis placed on the two rivals when they contest the SSE Swalec Plate final at Principality Stadium.
Ahead of their SSE SWALEC Bowl Final clash with Taffs Well at Principality Stadium on Sunday, Burry Port share their #FABXV nomination with WRUTV in the search for Welsh rugby's greatest volunteers. Everyone can get involved by sending nominations via twitter to @WRU_Community using the hashtag #FABXV
Cardiff Blues prop Gethin Jenkins and Ospreys centre Ben John look ahead to the first game at Principality Stadium in Saturday's double header which is promising to be a special occasion for all Welsh fans.
Carmarthen Quins Director of Rugby Ian Jones and committee member Jeff Thomas along with Llandovery chairman Handel Davies look ahead to Sunday's SSE SWALEC Cup showdown where both teams are out to prove 'West is best'
SWALEC ambassador Shane WIlliams is looking forward to Sunday's Finals Day where the Cup, Bowl and Plate offers a great opportunity for players and teams to experience the magic of playing at Principality Stadium
Carmarthen Quins coach Richard Kelly believes it is an exciting time to be part of the Scarlets region as his side take on local rivals Llandovery in the SSE Swalec Cup final on Sunday, as WRU TV's Graeme Gillespie discovers
Scarlets long serving prop Phil John talks to WRU TV's Graeme Gillespie about Judgement Day IV and SSE Swalec Cup finals day. The last time Llandovery were in the cup final in 2007, the Drovers claimed the spoils with Phil playing a major role in the engine room.
Meet Aberdare coach Luke Thomas whose #FABXV nomination goes to super volunteer Daz with a whopping 10 things he does for the club each week, all except the ironing! You can also join in the search for Welsh rugby's greatest volunteers, by sending your nomination via twitter to @WRU_Community using the hashtag #FABXV
SSE Swalec Cup kings Pontypridd travelled to Swansea, fully expecting a return to their second home but Llandovery had other ideas as they also sought victory in the semi-final to earn the right to play the final at Principality Stadium