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Page last updated at 18:01 GMT, Sunday, 31 January 2010

Wales back James Hook delays shoulder surgery

By Gareth Lewis

James Hook
James Hook hopes to win his 38th Wales cap against England

James Hook will play through the pain barrier for Wales in the Six Nations.

The Ospreys star requires shoulder surgery, that would mean a lengthy spell out, on an injury sustained in their Boxing Day win over the Scarlets.

Hook is favourite to replace Lee Byrne at full-back in Wales' Six Nations opener in England on Saturday if Byrne fails in his appeal against his ban.

Wales coach Warren Gatland said: "There was the possibility of surgery but it was very much his decision to play."

The versatile 24-year-old - who can play at fly-half, centre or full-back - has been unable to take a full part in contact training this week ahead of their showdown at Twickenham.

Wales would prefer to play 2008 Grand Slam winner Hook at centre to possibly partner British and Irish Lions star Jamie Roberts in midfield.

But if his Ospreys team-mate Byrne fails to overturn a two-week ban from an independent disciplinary committee after his part in the Ospreys' now infamous 16-man saga in the Heineken Cup, Hook will revert to his autumn position of full back.

Gatland reveals Hook injury worry

"Sometimes it is about adrenaline and getting up for it," Gatland told BBC Wales' Scrum V's show.

"And most players in the modern game go in with knocks into every game.

"We hope when he does take the field that it will not be an issue for him."

Byrne has officially lodged an appeal against the ban picked up for failing to get permission from the referee to enter the field of play during the Ospreys 17-12 Heineken Cup win over Leicester last weekend. The appeal will be heard on Tuesday.

Byrne left the field in the second-half of the Pool Three clash after suffering a dislocated and bloodied toe and was replaced by centre Sonny Parker.

But the 29-year-old was sent back on three minutes later, after treatment, without any of his team-mates going off.

A Tigers player pointed out the Ospreys' numerical advantage to referee Alan Lewis, who then berated an Ospreys touchline official for not informing the match fourth official that Byrne had returned.

The official also did not award Leicester the penalty they should have had for Ospreys temporarily fielding an extra player.

Fly-half Dan Biggar eventually departed as the Ospreys returned to 15 men to hold on during a torrid finale of constant Leicester pressure.

Leicester claimed Byrne was involved in halting a break by scrum-half Ben Youngs as Tigers looked to claw back a 17-12 deficit.

The win ensured the Ospreys qualification for the Heineken Cup quarter-final while the defeat knocked Leicester out.


Byrne was suspended by an independent disciplinary panel while the Ospreys were fined £21,666 (25,000 Euros).

Pending his appeal, Wales have delayed their team announcement, originally pencilled in for Sunday, for the clash at Twickenham.

"[Byrne's ban] is a huge disappointment for us and in particular Lee," Gatland said.

"I think it is a bit harsh getting a two week suspension that at the moment has kicked him out of selection for the England game."

It is thought Byrne might argue that the ban could cost him match appearance and win bonus fees for Wales and that it is unfair a ban picked up in the Heineken Cup should also apply to the Six Nations.

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see also
Rees positive despite Byrne ban
31 Jan 10 |  Rugby Union
Gatland delays team announcement
25 Jan 10 |  Welsh
Byrne in clear for England game
02 Feb 10 |  Rugby Union
Scarlets 14-21 Ospreys
26 Dec 09 |  Welsh

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