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 Under 18 captain Callum Bradbury is delighted to have seen his side claim a narrow 18-17 victory against a strong SA Schools 'A' side to end the three-match Under 19 International Series in South Africa on a high note.
The Wales U18 squad spent an emotional day in the drug-riddled townnship of Hout Bay. Hout Bay Warriors President Fred Johannes said the visit was 'the talk of the town' and will dream about the day everyday for the rest of his life.
RGC 1404's new head coach Mark Jones is hoping to build 'something special' in north Wales and is already looking forward to the development region participating in the Principality Premiership for the very first time.
A joint venture between the WRU and Admiral saw hundreds of children enjoy the Admiral Festival of Rugby held at the National Centre of Excellence at the weekend where Welsh internationals Sam Warburton, Scott Williams and Rob Evans were in attendance.
Wll Jones leads Wales U18s into battle this afternoon against Italy where the Welsh side will be seeking to bounce back from their narrow defeat to SA Schools in their opening clash of the U19 International Series
All four regions attended a successful training camp staged last weekend at the WRU National Centre of Excellence. It was a chance for new Wales Women's head coach Rowland Phillips to deliver his key messages to players and coaches as he prepares for the new season.
Wales U18 Team Manager Gethin Watts believes the next couple of weeks will be 'extremely beneficial' to the future of Welsh rugby as his side prepare to take part in the Under 19 International Series being staged in South Africa.
The WRU is searching for 12 new rugby development apprentices following a successful first year of its WRU Coach Core programme. Craig Duncan and Jess Hancock have flourished in the first year of the programme which has given them a real direction in their lives.
The WRU signed TV comedian Rhod Gilbert up to a 'Coaching Children Level 1' course before letting him loose on an U8s side at Whitland Junior Borderers - we went behind the scenes to film the making of 'Rhod Gilbert's Work Experience' see the results here.
Llandovery are aiming to make it three titles in a row in this year's Foster's National 7s being held at BT Sport Cardiff Arms Park on Sunday 28 August. Drovers assistant coach Simon Davies and Lee Rees assess their sides chances
A pioneering strength and conditioning programme has been delivered to more than 8000 boys and girls at hub schools throughout Wales this season, helping to develop stronger, more flexible athletes for rugby and other sports.
The Singha Premiership Rugby 7s Series returns to the BT Sport Cardiff Arms Park on July 22nd when all four Welsh regions go head to head. Scarlets skills coach Dai Flanagan and Blues Elite Performance Pathway Manager Richard Hodges along with current Welsh squad members were at the launch of this season's event