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Page last updated at 08:19 GMT, Friday, 11 March 2011

James Hook has 'great fly-half chance' - Warren Gatland

Six Nations: WALES v IRELAND
Venue: Millennium Stadium, Cardiff Date: Sat, 12 March Kick-off: 1700 GMT
Coverage: Watch live on BBC One Wales, BBC One HD and online from 1635-1900; Listen on BBC Radio Wales, BBC Radio Cymru & BBC Radio 5 Live; Text commentary on BBC Sport website and mobiles


Gatland's World Cup challenge to Hook

Wales boss Warren Gatland says James Hook has a great chance to cement his place at fly-half when they face Ireland in the Six Nations on Saturday.

Hook is back at 10 for the second time in the tournament as debate continues over whether he or Stephen Jones should don the jersey.

Hook took over at fly-half in the 24-6 win over Scotland and Gatland says the 2011 World Cup role is up for grabs.

Gatland said: "He [Hook] gets a great chance on Saturday against Ireland."

If he comes off the bench on Saturday, Scarlets veteran Jones, 33, will make a 99th Wales appearance in the knowledge that Hook has largely been his understudy since they shared the duties during the 2008 Grand Slam success.

In the meantime Hook, 25, has seen Dan Biggar, 21, preferred at 10 at the Ospreys and for Wales before this tournament - until Gatland returned the fly-half duties to Hook in the wake of their side's opening 26-29 Six Nations defeat by England.

In 2008 we had the same sort of debates and we won the Grand Slam

James Hook

Hook promptly created Wales' opening try for Shane Williams as they bounced back against Scotland, but was forced into the centre to win his 50th cap in their 24-16 win over Italy due to Jonathan Davies' hamstring strain.

Osprey Hook, who joins Perpignan for the start of the 2011-12 season - says the on-going debate over the Wales fly-half spot is "ridiculous", adding: "But I think you just get on with it.

"In 2008 we had the same sort of debates and we won the Grand Slam so if it gives you that success, we don't mind so much."

Gatland hopes the faith he has shown in a player without much game-time at fly-half in recent times will pay off.

"We haven't discounted him as an option as a 10 for us at any stage or even looking further down the line for the World Cup," said Gatland.

"Sometimes we've been hampered with injuries at full-back and sometimes in midfield and we've wanted to find a spot for him and sometimes get our best players on the field.

"And I think one of the things with James, he's 26 now and he's just developing. He's a lot more mature in his decision-making and his calmness on the field.

Gatland's World Cup challenge to Hook

"And I think there's a chance for him to perhaps excel at 10.

"I think two or three years ago we sometimes felt that yes, there was a talent, but perhaps the criticism was the control of the game - there was a criticism over him at times.

"And now that he's experienced a little bit in the midfield, it could be the right time for him to move into 10.

"We've been a little bit hampered because he hasn't started a lot at regional level at 10 - he hasn't started there at all this season.

"He's come on in the last 20 minutes or moved there in a few games and has done well.

"So it's not the easiest position in the world to be thrown in at at international level at number 10 when you haven't been playing there regularly... he did a pretty good job in Scotland, creating that first try.

"There were a few aspects of his game defensively that he needs to work on, again a bit of control in the game.

"But he gets a great chance on Saturday against Ireland and just hopefully he goes well."

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