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James Hook confirms Perpignan contract

James Hook playing for the Ospreys against London Irrish in the Heineken Cup
James Hook has ended months of speculation by announcing he will leave the Ospreys for Perpignan in July, 2011

Wales international James Hook has confirmed he is joining French club Perpignan on a three-year deal in July.

The British and Irish Lions star announced at a press conference in north Wales he will leave the Ospreys at the end of the season.

Hook, 25, revealed in November 2010 he would move from the Ospreys at the end of the 2010/11 season.

"I wanted to experience playing in France while I have the chance," said 47-times capped Hook.

"It is daunting, I have got to be honest. [But] the last couple of years I've always wanted to go out to France and experience it. I'm hugely excited about it.

"The easiest thing would have been to stay. The Ospreys are a great region and all my friends are from that region. But... it's short career. Hopefully I have got a while left but you don't know what's round the corner.

"I enjoy playing on hard grounds and the weather will hopefully benefit my game. The positives definitely outweigh the negatives."

Hook admitted that he had told Wales coach Warren Gatland of his decision to move to France.

And he hopes it does not affect his internationals career because Gatland has insisted his players are Wales-based wherever possible, even though the New Zealander has picked Dwayne Peel (Shale Sharks) and Andy Powell (Wasps) in his 28-man Six nations squad.

Hook hopes Wales door is still open

In his Perpignan contract, Hook is guaranteed to be released to Wales for all pre-World Cup training and matches.

But he has no clause in his contract which guarantees release for training or playing outside of the International Rugby Board window.

"I did speak to Warren and told him of my desire to go out there and play and experience [France]," added Hook.

"Obviously I have huge aspirations to play for Wales for many years to come, but your international future is never guaranteed and I'll never take that for granted.

"It's a short career and you have got to take these opportunities when they come, because they don't come around very often."

Despite Hook announcing he is leaving the Liberty Stadium the Ospreys said on Tuesday the door remains open to the 47-times capped star.

"The door's always open for James. He is an Ospreys through and through, and it will never be closed to him," said Ospreys coach Filo Tiatia.

"When I first joined here it was his second season and he was still a young man then.

"To see James move on is very sad for me because I've built up a very good relationship with James.

"It's just the nature of the beast at the moment. There are so many different clubs with a lot of money.

"If you have got the talent then clubs will want to chase you, and unfortunately James has that talent."

The Ospreys revealed in November, 2010 that they had offered 25-year-old Hook an ''unprecedented'' deal to stay at the Liberty Stadium.

I don't think it's change of guard at the Ospreys

Ospreys coach Filo Tiatia

But Hook's desire to play in France is not only motivated by money. He would be following other Welsh stars like Stephen Jones, who have had spells in France before returning back to Wales.

The problem for the Ospreys is that Hook is not the only star player to leave. Gavin Henson moved to Saracens in November, 2010 and Lee Byrne has been linked with a move away from the Liberty.

But Tiatia denied that the Ospreys were going through a shake-up in personnel.

"I don't think it's change of guard at the Ospreys, I think it's one of those things that rugby is all about," he said.

"There's a lot of player movement.

"As you can see I'm playing in Wales from New Zealand. I've played in Japan it's just the way the market is at the moment."

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see also
Ospreys coach open to Byrne bids
18 Jan 11 |  Ospreys
Hook offered 'unprecedented' deal
15 Nov 10 |  Ospreys
Wales star Hook to leave Ospreys
02 Nov 10 |  Ospreys
Hook to decide on Ospreys future
13 Oct 10 |  Ospreys
BBC Sport Wales coverage
03 Oct 11 |  Wales
Heineken Cup
11 Apr 07 |  Rugby Union
RaboDirect Pro12
11 Apr 07 |  Rugby Union
Anglo-Welsh Cup
11 Apr 07 |  Rugby Union

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