Welsh will use 'massive size difference' to target Irish midfield - Hook
Published 09/03/2011 | 05:00
James Hook says Wales will use their physical superiority to target the Irish midfield when the sides clash at the Millennium Stadium on Saturday.
Hook is one of two positional changes to the side that beat Italy last time out, with the Ospreys man moving from outside centre back to out-half at the expense of Stephen Jones, who drops to the bench.
As a result, powerful Scarlets ace Jonathan Davies is back in at centre after recovering from the hamstring injury which ruled him out of the trip to Rome.
Between Hook, Davies and his 6'4", 17-stone centre partner Jamie Roberts, Wales have a considerable size advantage over Ireland's midfield of Ronan O'Gara, Gordon D'Arcy and Brian O'Driscoll, and Hook is adamant that they have to make it count at the weekend, hinting that Roberts would be used to run at Ireland's out-half channel.
"The size difference is massive," said Hook. "If we can get one-on-ones it will be great, but it's not that easy. Defensive systems make it harder to target players like that but, if we get mismatches, great. He (O'Gara) just controls any game with the kicks he puts in to put them in the right areas.
"We need to get our big men over the gain-line, which would allow the likes of Lee Byrne and Shane Williams to pick holes to attack.
"Ireland pride themselves on their defence and Brian O'Driscoll is a great defender. They will want to stop Jon Davies and Jamie on the gain-line but we have to get over it."
It has been a mixed campaign for Wales, beaten relatively comfortably by England in Cardiff, superb when beating Scotland in Edinburgh and unconvincing in Rome. However, Ireland is the game that will define their Six Nations, insists Hook.
"The last two wins were good for us, but this is probably the game we will be judged on," he said.
"It's a massive Test, and we need to win. It's as simple as that. If we lose, it might be judged as a poor Six Nations for us, so we are just focusing on what is a huge game.
"If we can beat Ireland, it's important for us moving forward as a team. There's a lot more to come from us. I am glad to be back in the (10) jersey. I am thankful I have got a chance to try to build something again.
"There is always pressure, and Ireland will be a totally different challenge to Scotland and Italy -- they have so much experience."
- Connacht have received a massive boost with skipper John Muldoon set to return this weekend after being out since before Christmas after breaking his arm. It was feared the 28-year-old might miss the remainder of the season, but the Portumna native was given the all-clear yesterday by medics.