Wales flyhalf James Hook has left a lasting impression on the All Black management, who believe him to be in the same class as Daniel Carter.
Assistant coach Steve Hansen has told Hook’s Sevens coach Dai Rees that the 21-year-old has what it takes to stand up to the best in the world.
“I was speaking to Steve Hansen before we left for Dubai and he said James would be competing with Daniel Carter if he was in New Zealand. That is a hell of a compliment,” Rees explained.
“Players like that come along once in a generation. James is proving to be that good. He has had his breaks and will form a core part of the Wales squad for years to come.”
Having made his initial mark in Sevens and for the U21s, his influence on Wales’s performance throughout the November internationals has been patent. He was instrumental in aiding his side to a 29-29 draw against the Wallabies, and with captain Stephen Jones injured in the following two Tests, he immediately assumed control and was especially threatening on attack. The All Black fixture also saw a bit more spark from the hosts when he was introduced in the second period.
Rees believes that the Wales management needs to find a permanent spot for this kid in what is an already formidable backline.
“Hook will place Gareth [Jenkins, Wales coach] in a position where there is no way he can leave him out, and he could play either at 10 or 12.
“With Steve as captain, initially you would look at James at 12. The way we play in Welsh rugby we have got to play with a guy who can release players around him and, for me, James Hook can fulfill that role.
“He is mentally tough, and his skills are superb. He always wants to learn and get that extra 1% to make him a world-class player.”
While Carter (5’11) is a touch shorter than Hook (6’0), he outweighs his Welsh counterpart by 10 kg. Hook’s likeness to Carter should, however, be drawn to Carter as a 21-year-old and how it compares to Hook’s present situation. With Carlos Spencer in his prime, Carter had to settle for the All Black No 12 jersey, much like Hook is expected to do alongside his skipper for Wales in the coming months.
But Hook will still have to prove himself in the Six Nations, and will need to leapfrog Gavin Henson to claim the position of inside centre. The Welsh may have their problems in other areas, but the midfield is looking very healthy indeed.