James Hook prepared to play in any Wales position
JAMES Hook would probably be willing to play at prop for Wales, such is his eagerness to start for his country.
The former Ospreys man has been deployed in numerous roles during his career, anywhere from fly-half to full-back.
It is at 10 where Hook feels most at home, and the position where his rich talents can best influence a match.
But it was at inside centre where he made his most recent Wales appearance, replacing the injured Jamie Roberts in the first half of Saturday's galling 26-12 defeat to Argentina.
Hook's last international start at fly-half came more than a year ago, in the World Cup third-place play-off defeat to Australia.
That was less than a week after the agonising 9-8 semi-final loss to France, where Hook — playing in place of the injured Rhys Priestland — missed some crucial kicks.
It seemed to be a costly performance for the former Osprey, as his only start since then has been the June victory over the Barbarians.
Hook played at inside centre on that occasion, yet he has spent the vast majority of this club season with Perpignan at fly-half.
Regardless of his personal preferences, though, Hook is determined to add to his 66 caps wherever he can.
"Everyone knows I like to play 10 but, 10 or 12, I just want to play," he said.
"I was just happy to get on the pitch and get a good run.
"It was disappointing the way it ended with the result, but I'm hoping I can get some more game-time over the next two matches and play as best I can for this team."
With Jonathan Davies and Ashley Beck nearing a return to full fitness in time for Friday's meeting with Samoa, Hook will face strong competition for a starting place at inside centre.
As a natural playmaking fly-half, Hook's creative instincts could make him the ideal partner for the more robust Scott Williams at 13.
When Wales have opted for a pairing made up of two from Williams, Davies or Roberts, they have been accused of being predictable or one-dimensional; overly reliant on direct ball-carriers.
Hook's inclusion at 12 could bring more invention to the midfield. The 27-year-old may not have been able to unlock the Argentinean defence on Saturday but, with the Welsh forwards comprehensively outplayed by their counterparts, he was scarcely given any opportunities to showcase his ability.
"We couldn't really do anything against Argentina," Hook added.
"In fairness to them, they defended really well and we couldn't get the front-foot ball we wanted.
"It was difficult, but I want to get as much game-time as possible and help the team as much as I can."
Even if Rob Howley decides to rotate his squad, a host of changes could also benefit Hook.
His former Ospreys team-mate Dan Biggar has been in excellent form this season and is putting considerable pressure on Priestland for the 10 jersey.
Should Biggar get the nod to face Samoa, he could be paired alongside his current regional colleague Beck or, as Hook hopes, an ex-Liberty Stadium team-mate.
"I'd love to start again for Wales," said Hook.
"I've been on the bench quite a lot. It would be lovely to get a start, but it's out of my hands. Even if it's at 12, I just want to play."
Whatever the make-up of Howley's team to face Samoa, a performance with even a passing resemblance to the Argentina defeat could leave Wales with two losses from two autumn Tests — and that is before they face New Zealand and Australia.
"We were all bitterly disappointed. It was tough to take," Hook said of Saturday's match.
"We've got to stick together and rebuild. We've got three tough games to come now.
"We've got to look at where we went wrong — and there's plenty where we went wrong — and pick ourselves up for the game on Friday."