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Page last updated at 06:57 GMT, Tuesday, 26 October 2010 07:57 UK

James Hook happy to fill Wales full-back role

James Hook
James Hook has won 43 Wales caps since his international debut in 2006

James Hook says he is ready to solve Wales' full-back problem after Lee Byrne's withdrawal for the autumn series because of a broken hand.

Byrne joined British and Irish Lions team-mate Jamie Roberts on the injured list when he broke the third metacarpal in his right hand playing for Ospreys.

Now star centre Hook is willing to drop back to fill the void left by Byrne.

"As long as I am playing, I am happy, whether it's centre, outside-half or full-back," Hook said.

The 25-year-old, who can play at fly-half or centre, replaced foot injury victim Byrne in the number 15 jersey during last season's autumn internationals to further enhance his versatility in the Wales back-line.

Byrne, the Wales squad's only recognised, specialist international full-back, suffered the injury playing for Ospreys in Sunday's 31-23 Magners League defeat to Glasgow on Sunday.

Will Harries, who won his only Wales cap on their summer tour to New Zealand, is full-back at the Dragons, while Blues wings Leigh Halfpenny and Chris Czekaj - called into the squad after Byrne's withdrawal - plus Ospreys rookie Tom Prydie can also play at 15.

But Hook has the international experience that could prove vital against the Tri Nations super-powers of Australia, South Africa and New Zealand that Wales will welcome to Cardiff in November.

This time last year I didn't have much experience of full-back, so I was thrown in at the deep end a little bit. But I've got that much more experience now

Wales back James Hook

Wales coach Warren Gatland wants to lay down an international marker this autumn against the southern hemisphere giants, with the World Cup less than 12 months away.

So Hook could be favourite for the number 15 shirt for Wales' autumn Test opener with the Wallabies on 6 November - when he will win his 44th cap - before the world champions South Africa, Fiji and the All Blacks visit the Millennium Stadium.

When Hook stepped in at full-back last season he emerged as arguably Wales' most consistent player during that four-Test schedule.

"It is a possibility with Lee being out, it is the same sort of situation as last year," said Hook.

"We've got two weeks of training before the first game against Australia.

"This time last year I didn't have much experience of full-back, so I was thrown in at the deep end a little bit.

"But I've got that much more experience of full-back now, if I am called upon.

"It was pretty much catch and kick last year and playing for territory, but now a lot of tries are scored from your own half so it puts an emphasis on the attacking team. That's the difference, compared to last year.

"When I was full-back last November against Australia it was one of the toughest games I had been involved in.

"They just threw the ball about and they were pretty good in fairness that day. We had no real answer to them."

Hook has proved to be one of the top centres in European rugby this season and helped inspire the Ospreys to a Heineken Cup pool victory over English Premiership leaders London Irish earlier this month.

Wales assistant coach Rob Howley rues Lee Byrne's injury setback

So moving Hook to full-back would be a huge loss to Wales' midfield if it is decided a positional switch is required.

But Gatland does have more strength in depth at centre with experienced pair Andrew Bishop and Tom Shanklin joined by young Scarlet Jonathan Davies.

Byrne, though, does have an "outside chance" of making the autumn finale against New Zealand on 27 November.

Hook added: "I look back a couple of years ago when I was on the bench for most of the Six Nations and the autumn Tests - that's a lot more frustrating.

"We've got to try to beat one of these big teams - we want to win them all, obviously - but we need to win at least one or two to put us in good stead for the Six Nations and then on to the World Cup next year.

"If you look at the games we are not far away. It's a silly penalty, a silly mistake now and again that has cost us.

"We just need to believe in ourselves. We know we can beat these teams and we've got to believe from the start.

"These are massive games for us. We want to try to get a big scalp and get something out of these autumn internationals."

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see also
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Wales' rugby fixtures
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Wales rugby results archive
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BBC Sport Wales coverage
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