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Page last updated at 16:42 GMT, Friday, 25 February 2011

Coach Howley's advice for star Wales back James Hook

2011 Six Nations championship - Italy v Wales
Venue: Stadio Flaminio, Rome Date: Sat, 26 February Kick-off: 1430 GMT
Coverage: Watch live on BBC One, BBC HD channel, Red Button and online from 1400; listen on BBC Radio Wales, Radio Cymru and online; live text commentary on BBC Sport website and mobiles

Wales' James Hook
James Hook makes his voice heard in Wales' win against Scotland

Wales attack coach Robert Howley says "priceless" star James Hook must not take too much on himself against Italy the Six Nations in Rome on Saturday.

Wales got into the game after a 26-19 defeat by England and 24-6 win over Scotland and Howley says Hook has been guilty of "forcing" the game.

Hook was at full-back against England, 10 in Scotland is outside centre in Jonathan Davies' Rome injury absence.

"He just needs to be accurate and not take too much on himself," said Howley.

"I think he's been trying to force the game too often.

"And I think on Saturday it's about that composure, putting players the likes of Morgan Stoddart, Lee Byrne and Shane Williams into space and then hopefully something will open up for Hooky.

I think that we've surprised many people in that [scrum] area and we'll be looking to at least get parity or even better against Italy

Wales attack coach Robert Howley

"It's that patience and composure we're looking for Hooky to have an impact in the game, really."

However, ex-Wales and British and Irish Lions scrum-half Howley hailed the versatility of a player who is to leave the Ospreys at the end of the season to join Perpignan in a bid to play regularly at fly-half.

"He's a priceless asset to any team - he's played 15, 13, 12 and 10 ," said Howley.

"He gives you an ability to play in those wide channels and he just needs to be accurate and not take too much on himself."

Stephen Jones is back at fly-half after being dropped to the bench against Scotland in the wake of the opening loss to England.

Davies' absence has given Jones the chance to become Wales' second-most capped player along with Martyn Williams, on 98 appearances, behind ex-Test team-mate Gareth Thomas who reached 100.

Wales' front row of Craig Mitchell, Matthew Rees and Paul James
Wales' front row of Craig Mitchell, Matthew Rees and Paul James have impressed

Jones and half-back partner Mike Phillips have come in for criticism recently, but Howley says they have a 2009 British and Irish Lions pedigree that should not be ignored.

"Let's not forget that him and Mike were British Lions half-backs only two years ago," said Howley.

"I've spoken to Steve throughout the week and he knows that in terms of what he needs to bring to the table on Saturday afternoon - his wealth of experience, putting us in the right areas, being a running threat and asking questions.

"And I think that everyone looks to compare 10s in whatever country, more so in Wales and I think we're blessed in having two 10s in Steve and Hooky and not forgetting young Rhys Priestland coming up, sort of putting pressure on both of them.

"As a coaching and management team we're blessed with having those opportunities."

And while much Welsh attention has been on that half-back partnership and Hook, Howley says the form of stand-in props Paul James and Craig Mitchell should not be overlooked.


James has taken over from injured Lion Gethin Jenkins (toe) while Mitchell is in the tight-head role another Lion, Adam Jones (elbow), has left vacant.

Italy have a vastly experienced front-row in Salvatore Perugini, Leonardo Ghiradlini and Martin Castrogiovanni.

But Howley says Wales' trio of James, skipper Matthew Rees and Mitchell can hold their own.

He said: "Obviously Castrogivanni is hugely instrumental at scrum time. They've got a lot of experience in that front row and will be looking to capitalise.

"And I think when you look at our game in terms of the scrum, which came into the Six Nations when people were talking about Adam Jones not playing and Gethin Jenkins, the likes of Craig Mitchell and Paul James and Matthew Rees have provided a good enough platform.

"And I think that we've surprised many people in that area and we'll be looking to at least get parity or even better against Italy.

"And I think the way we've played at scrum time has been good enough."

Wales: Lee Byrne (Ospreys); Morgan Stoddart (Scarlets), James Hook (Ospreys), Jamie Roberts (Cardiff Blues), Shane Williams (Ospreys); Stephen Jones (Scarlets), Mike Phillips (Ospreys); Paul James (Ospreys), Matthew Rees (Scarlets, capt), Craig Mitchell (Ospreys), Bradley Davies (Blues), Alun Wyn Jones (Ospreys), Dan Lydiate (Newport Gwent Dragons), Sam Warburton (Blues), Ryan Jones (Ospreys).
Replacements: Richard Hibbard (Ospreys), John Yapp (Blues), Jonathan Thomas (Ospreys), Josh Turnbull (Scarlets), Tavis Knoyle (Scarlets), Rhys Priestland (Scarlets), Leigh Halfpenny (Blues).

Wales squad:

Forwards: Paul James (Ospreys), John Yapp (Blues), Craig Mitchell (Ospreys), Ryan Bevington (Ospreys), Scott Andrews (Blues), Matthew Rees (Scarlets, capt), Richard Hibbard (Ospreys), Alun Wyn Jones (Ospreys), Bradley Davies (Blues), Ryan Jones (Ospreys), Sam Warburton (Blues), Jonathan Thomas (Ospreys), Andy Powell (Wasps), Josh Turnbull (Scarlets), Rob McCusker (Scarlets), Dan Lydiate (Dragons).

Backs: Mike Phillips (Ospreys), Dwayne Peel (Sale), Tavis Knoyle (Scarlets), Stephen Jones (Scarlets), Rhys Priestland (Scarlets), James Hook (Ospreys), Jamie Roberts (Blues), Jonathan Davies (Scarlets), Shane Williams (Ospreys), Morgan Stoddart (Scarlets), Lee Byrne (Ospreys), Leigh Halfpenny (Blues).


Wales fly-half Stephen Jones aware of Wales century landmark

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see also
Italy 16-24 Wales
26 Feb 11 |  Rugby Union
Johnson baffled by fly-half focus
24 Feb 11 |  Welsh
Mallett makes three Italy changes
24 Feb 11 |  Welsh
Bishop return set to boost Wales
25 Feb 11 |  Welsh
Jones wants Wales to take risks
24 Feb 11 |  Welsh
Williams targets Campese try mark
24 Feb 11 |  Welsh
Davies injury forces Hook switch
22 Feb 11 |  Welsh
Scotland 6-24 Wales
12 Feb 11 |  Rugby Union
England 59-13 Italy
12 Feb 11 |  Rugby Union
Wales 19-26 England
04 Feb 11 |  Rugby Union
Italy 11-13 Ireland
05 Feb 11 |  Rugby Union
Wales' rugby fixtures
26 Jun 07 |  Welsh
Wales rugby results archive
15 Oct 03 |  Welsh
BBC Sport Wales coverage
03 Oct 11 |  Wales

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