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Page last updated at 07:26 GMT, Saturday, 23 May 2009 08:26 UK

Hook receives surprise Lions call

James Hook celebrates his Lions call-up
Hook celebrates his call-up to the Lions tour with the help of a cuddly toy

The British and Irish Lions have called up Wales fly-half James Hook to replace his injured international team-mate Leigh Halfpenny in South Africa.

The 23-year-old joins Ross Ford as a replacement in the Lions' injury-hit squad, with the Scotland hooker taking the place of Ireland's Jerry Flannery.

Winger or full-back Halfpenny will undergo treatment for a thigh injury.

But it is still hoped that Halfpenny will be able to play some part in the tour if the injury heals as expected.

The 20-year-old - the squad's youngest member - has returned to club side Cardiff Blues for treatment, while Hook will leave Wales' tour of Canada and the United States.

With Halfpenny one of only three recognised goalkickers in the squad, together with fly-halves Stephen Jones and Ronan O'Gara, Lions coach Ian McGeechan needed a replacement who could offer back-up in that area.

"We decided that James was the ideal person to come into the tour squad," he said.

"A very important consideration for us was to strengthen the goalkicking options in the squad.

"James is an accomplished goalkicker and has scored over 200 points for his country in his 33 appearances.

"Also, he has played at fly-half, centre and full-back for Wales but is also comfortable at outside centre.

"He is very familiar with other backs in the squad having played in the same Welsh team as Mike Phillips, Stephen Jones, Jamie Roberts, Shane Williams and Lee Byrne."

England full-back Delon Armitage
Armitage was expected to receive the Lions call

England full-back Delon Armitage had been favourite to replace him, while Scotland's Chris Paterson and England's Danny Cipriani had also been mentioned as possible contenders.

With the squad not even flying to South Africa until Sunday, Halfpenny, Flannery, scrum-half Tomas O'Leary and centre Tom Shanklin have all been hit by injuries, while flanker Alan Quinlan will take no part after receiving a lengthy suspension.

Quinlan had been a surprise inclusion in the Lions squad but was replaced by England youngster Tom Croft after being found guilty of making contact with the eye area of Leinster captain Leo Cullen in the recent Heineken Cup semi-final.

Scotland skipper Mike Blair replaced O'Leary, while there will be no replacement for Shanklin.

Ford, 25, has won 30 caps since making his debut against Australia in November 2004.

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McGeechan said he looked forward to welcoming Ford into the Lions squad but paid tribute to the unlucky Flannery.

"Jerry has had a terrific season and he anchored the Irish scrum during Ireland's Six Nations Grand Slam season. It is disappointing that after selection for the Lions his season should end with a pre-tour injury," said the Scot.

The Edinburgh forward made his first start in the 2007 Six Nations and has since made the number two shirt his own, starting Scotland's last 10 internationals.

Munster star Flannery chipped a bone in his elbow and a scan revealed he needs an operation.

Former Ireland and Lions hooker Keith Wood told BBC Radio 5 Live he was "absolutely gutted" for Flannery.

"Flannery was comfortably the best hooker in the last two seasons," he said.

"He throws unbelievably well. Against Bakkies Botha and Victor Matfield, that's something that is very important. Accuracy is paramount."

The Lions squad assembled in Surrey on Monday, six days before they are due to fly out to South Africa.

The opening game of the 10-match tour is against a Royal XV in Rustenburg on 30 May, and there are three Test matches against world champions South Africa - in Durban (20 June), Pretoria (27 June) and Johannesburg (4 July).


British and Irish Lions squad to tour South Africa (age-club-country):

Full-back

Lee Byrne (28) Ospreys and Wales
Rob Kearney (23) Leinster and Ireland

Wing

Shane Williams (32) Ospreys and Wales
Leigh Halfpenny (20) Cardiff Blues and Wales
Ugo Monye (26) Harlequins and England
Luke Fitzgerald (21) Leinster and Ireland
Tommy Bowe (25) Ospreys and Ireland

Centres

Jamie Roberts (22) Cardiff Blues and Wales
Brian O'Driscoll (30) Leinster and Ireland
Keith Earls (21) Munster and Ireland
Riki Flutey (29) Wasps and England

Fly-half

Ronan O'Gara (32) Munster and Ireland
Stephen Jones (31) Llanelli Scarlets and Wales
James Hook (23) Ospreys and Wales

Scrum-half

Mike Phillips (26) Ospreys and Wales
Harry Ellis (26) Leicester and England
Mike Blair (28) Edinburgh and Scotland

Prop

Gethin Jenkins (28) Cardiff Blues and Wales
Adam Jones (28) Ospreys and Wales
Andrew Sheridan (29) Sale and England
Phil Vickery (33) Wasps and England
Euan Murray (28) Northampton and Scotland

Hooker

Lee Mears (30) Bath and England
Matthew Rees (28) Llanelli Scarlets and Wales
Ross Ford (25) Edinburgh and Scotland

Lock

Paul O'Connell, capt (29) Munster and Ireland
Alun Wyn Jones (23) Ospreys and Wales
Donncha O'Callaghan (30) Munster and Ireland
Nathan Hines (32) Perpignan and Scotland
Simon Shaw (35) Wasps and England

Back-row

David Wallace (32) Munster and Ireland
Stephen Ferris (23) Ulster and Ireland
Tom Croft (23) Leicester and England
Joe Worsley (31) Wasps and England
Martyn Williams (33) Cardiff Blues and Wales
Jamie Heaslip (25) Leinster and Ireland
Andy Powell (27) Cardiff Blues and Wales

Tour fixtures:

30 May: Highveld XV; Royal Bafokeng, Rustenburg
3 June: Golden Lions; Ellis Park, Johannesburg
6 June: Cheetahs; Vodacom Park, Bloemfontein
10 June: Sharks; ABSA Park, Durban
13 June: Western Province; Newlands, Cape Town
16/17 June: Coastal XV; Port Elizabeth (Venue to be confirmed)
20 June: South Africa(first Test); ABSA Park, Durban
23 June: Emerging Springboks; Newlands, Cape Town
27 June: South Africa (second Test); Loftus Versfeld, Pretoria
4 July: South Africa (third Test); Ellis Park, Johannesburg



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see also
Shanklin feels Halfpenny's pain
21 May 09 |  Welsh
Halfpenny 'ready to join Lions'
20 May 09 |  Welsh
Lions will not replace Shanklin
18 May 09 |  Rugby Union
Blair replaces O'Leary for Lions
11 May 09 |  Rugby Union
Hook 'would make a Lions impact'
22 May 09 |  Welsh
Hook's best position not settled
12 May 09 |  Welsh
2009 Lions: Squad & results
09 Jul 09 |  Rugby Union
Lions squad selector
07 May 09 |  Rugby Union


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