All Blacks rate Hook

New Zealand coach Steve Hansen has revealed that the All Blacks rate James Hook in the same bracket as star fly-half Dan Carter. [more]

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New Zealand coach Steve Hansen has revealed that the All Blacks rate James Hook in the same bracket as star fly-half Dan Carter.

Hook, a former Sevens and Under-21 international, made a stunning breakthrough into Test rugby during Wales’ autumn international campaign.

He came off the bench to help Wales secure a 29-29 draw with Australia before starting in the victories over the Pacific Islands and Canada.

Wales did go down 45-10 to a rampant All Blacks side last weekend – but they posed more questions to New Zealand following Hook’s introduction as a second-half replacement.

This time last year Hook was a relative unknown preparing for the Dubai Sevens, but 12 months on his reputation has stretched way beyond the Severn Bridge.

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Wales Sevens coach Dai Rees explained: "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.

"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."

There are a number of comparisons between Carter’s development into the best fly-half in world rugby and the path followed by Hook.

Carter came into the All Blacks side as an inside centre before switching to fly-half once Carlos Spencer retired.

With Stephen Jones installed as Wales captain until the 2007 World Cup, Rees sees Hook taking a similar route to stardom.

"He will place himself in a position soon where he has got to be in the side.

"He will place Gareth (Jenkins, Wales coach) in a position where there is no way he can leave James Hook out, and he could play either at 10 or 12," said Rees.

"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 is that role."

Rees played a key role in Hook’s development through the Grand Slam-winning Under-21 side and the Sevens set-up.

Hook finished as the leading points scorer in Dubai last year and he helped Wales to the Plate at the Commonwealth Games.

"He is a great kid. When I picked him up he had only ever played semi-pro rugby," Rees continued.

"I worked with him in the Under-21s. He is just a sponge and still is.

"He is mentally tough, his skills are superb. He always wants to learn and get that extra 1% to make him a world-class player.

"When he went on against the Wallabies in front of 75,000 people the only other time he played in front of that many people was at the Commonwealth Games in the Telstra Dome.

"The sevens has produced what it is designed to do – an international and a world class player."

Wales open their Dubai Sevens campaign against New Zealand on Friday morning.

Rees said: "We are rated as third in our pool. If you are going to play New Zealand, it is a good time to play them first up.

"They are new together, with seven new players, so it is better to play them tomorrow (Friday) than on day two when they are into the swing."

England, the defending Dubai champions, called up Worcester winger Marcel Garvey as a replacement for Gloucester prospect Jack Adams.

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