British & Irish Lions ‘Hook’ in a replacement

Welsh playmaker James Hook has been called into the British and Irish Lions squad for the tour to South Africa as a replacement for the injured Leigh Halfpenny.


Tour manager Gerald Davies said: “Leigh Halfpenny has returned to Cardiff where he is to undergo treatment for his thigh injury.


“As the injury means he will miss the start of the tour Ian McGeechan and his fellow selectors have called up James Hook to the squad for the tour to South Africa,” added Davies.


McGeechan stressed that Hook’s goal-kicking ability aligned with his strength as a potential utility back and the fact that there were a clutch of other Ospreys players in the Lions squad had worked in his favour.


“After analysing our requirements for a replacement as we head to South Africa on Sunday we decided that James was the ideal person to come into the tour squad.”


“A very important consideration for us was to strengthen the goal kicking options in the squad.”


“James is an accomplished goal kicker and has scored over 200 points for his country in his 33 appearances. Also, he has played at fly half, centre and fullback for Wales but is also comfortable at outside centre.”


McGeechan added: “He is very familiar with other backs in the squad having played in the same Welsh team as Mike Phillips, Stephen Jones, Jamie Roberts, Shane Williams and Lee Byrne.


“Three of these also play in the Ospreys team with him that also includes Tommy Bowe. Therefore there is an existing understanding between all of these players.”


The Lions squad have had five changes in personnel before the 10-match, three-Test tour gets under way.


Aside from Hook’s inclusion, Scotland hooker Ross Ford and scrum-half Mike Blair have replaced Ireland’s injured duo Jerry Flannery and Tomas O’Leary, while Wales centre Tom Shanklin has not been replaced.


Irish flanker Alan Quinlan was banned for gouging in a club match and subsequently replaced by Tom Croft of England.


Sapa-AFP

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