June International Tours

McGeechan challenges Hook to step up



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Lions coach Ian McGeechan challenged James Hook to take a stand and match the outstanding efforts of Stephen Jones and Ronan O’Gara at fly-half after handing him a starting spot on Saturday.

“We want him to control the side from the start like Ronan and Stephen in the first two games,” McGeechan told the BBC after naming his side to face Free State Cheetahs.

Osprey Hook, 23,was called up to the Lions squad as a replacement for Leigh Halfpenny who was injured at the time. Halfpenny has since recovered and joined the squad but Hook will remain in the fold.

“There are big boots to fill with Ronan and Stephen, but I will try and make a selection headache there,” said Hook.

“There is no point coming here and sitting back, I’ve got a great chance on Saturday to give it my best and I’m going to give it 100%.”

Hook featured off the bench during Wednesday’s 74-10 victory against the Golden Lions, scoring an interception try and kicking three late conversions.

“James got into the game very well on Wednesday when he went on,” acknowledged McGeechan.

“He’s a good attacking player. He’s keen, and he is obviously a very important driver of what we want to do and how we want to do it.”

“I have been moved around a little bit this season more than I would have wanted. I do see myself as an outside-half.”

“[Lions assistant coach] Rob Howley told me after the game on Wednesday that I would be starting on Saturday. I am thrilled to bits,” said Hook.

“I have grown up with rugby since the age of six, and this is the best you can achieve. It means the world to me.

“Fly-half is my preferred position. If it means playing, I would play anywhere in the back-line, but I do prefer 10.

“You get the ball in your hands a lot more and it helps my game playing at 10, just trying to control people.

“I have been moved around a little bit this season more than I would have wanted.

“I do see myself as an outside-half but I am just happy to get that start.

“You play wherever you are picked, so if it means playing centre or whatever then I will do that.”

“It is such a team game, and the moment you start going off on your own, things start going wrong.

“It is a great structure here, so if we play well collectively, the individuals will too.

“It is a great honour just to be out here, and I want a good performance on Saturday.”

If Hook requires extra inspiration, he will find it written in the Lions dressing room when he arrives at the stadium in Bloemfontein where he will see some of the greatest fly-halves in Lions’ history etched under his name in the change rooms.

“They put the names up on the board in the changing room before the game, which is pretty special,” he said.

“It reminds you of how special the jersey is and what a great honour it is to wear it.

“The previous players who have worn the jersey you are wearing are put under your name.

“I’ve got Barry John, Phil Bennett and those guys, there.”

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