| 11.4°C Dublin

Gatland: Tough call for 10 spot

WALES coach Warren Gatland has admitted it was "a tough call" to choose between James Hook and Stephen Jones to wear the number 10 shirt against World Cup semi-final opponents France.

Gatland has handed Hook the fly-half role after Rhys Priestland lost his fitness battle for the Eden Park encounter.

Priestland injured his shoulder during the quarter-final victory over Ireland in Wellington last weekend, forcing him off three minutes from time.

Perpignan-bound Hook now steps up from the bench, with Gatland otherwise retaining the team that accounted for Ireland.

Jones, meanwhile, takes Hook's spot among the replacements.

Priestland was not considered for selection and he will now continue his rehabilitation over the next few days. Wales face either a World Cup final or third place play-off appearance next week.

"You pick up injuries, but you can't dwell on that," Gatland said.

"It was a tough call between James and Stephen, and we have got a lot of experience to come into the team," Gatland said.

Wales have reached their first World Cup semi-final since 1987, and they possess several of the tournament's form players, including wing George North, centre Jamie Roberts, scrum-half Mike Phillips, skipper Sam Warburton and number eight Toby Faletau.

And Warburton reflected the sense of excitement in a relatively young Welsh squad that has taken the tournament by storm.

"It is where you want to be as a player -- in the semi-finals of the World Cup," he said.

Gatland added: "We know that the people in Wales and the fans that have travelled here are excited about reaching the semi-finals of the World Cup, and we are too, but beating France on Saturday must be, and will be, our sole focus.

"The time to reflect and celebrate will come if we win our next two matches. Until that happens, our focus on the task ahead must be absolute."


Wales have lost nine of their last 11 games against France, while their only victory over them since 2005 came during a Six Nations title and Grand Slam-winning campaign three years ago -- Gatland's first at the helm.

"We don't want to rein in our open rugby, but we know against France it takes one turnover and they can hurt you." Roberts said. "So we will have to pick our moments to play rugby."

A total of 51,000 free tickets, meanwhile, have been snapped up for a Millennium Stadium showing of the semi-final on Saturday morning.

WALES (v France): L Halfpenny; G North, J Davies, J Roberts, S Williams; J Hook, M Phillips; T Faletau, S Warburton (captain), D Lydiate, A Wyn Jones, L Charteris, A Jones, H Bennett, G Jenkins. Replacements: LBurns, P James, B Davies, R Jones, L Williams, S Jones, S Williams.