CHRIS KIRWAN SAYS: No room for Hook in brutal midfield
9:00am Thursday 14th February 2013 in Sport
WALES’ win in Paris was a joyous occasion, a success that led to sighs of relief almost as loud as the boos from the Stade de France crowd.
The confidence seemed to return to the side from the moment that Leigh Halfpenny boomed over his winning penalty with five minutes left.
After eight defeats on the spin it was all about the win and hopefully it will prompt a return to better things in Rome, Edinburgh and Cardiff.
But it is important to not get carried away after edging a dire encounter; cracks cannot be papered over.
Sport is fickle. On Sunday French newspaper L’Equipe said their team had gone from cockerels to donkeys in the space of two months while scrum-half Mike Phillips said: “It’s a tough world and in rugby one minute you are the hero and the next you’re rubbish.”
It is important that the same critical eye is passed over a performance in victory as it is in defeat and I am sure that Rob Howley and his coaches have highlighted plenty of areas to work on ahead of the game against Italy.
And the attack is still a major cause for concern with Wales becoming a predictable team of steamrollers.
A seemingly obvious fix would be to bring in James Hook into midfield, a player who creates and would bring the best out of those around him.
Unfortunately there is no room, nor would he fit the style of play.
Like Nicky Robinson before him, there is no place for such a ball player in Warren Gatland’s Wales (and it is still his Wales).
Roberts is key to the attacking game – getting over the gain line and providing a target.
Davies is key to the defensive game – spotting danger and marshalling the troops in the blitz.
A lovely spinning miss-pass is to watch, but avoiding defensive lapses is the prime concern for coaches in Test rugby.
Three nations kept clean sheets this weekend while two conceded in the closing stages.
Standing up to the physicality is key; limited bulk wins over fragile flair every time.
It’s not just Wales, England will no doubt have returned to their combo of Brad Barritt and Manu Tuilagi by the time they arrive in Cardiff, with Billy Twelvetrees on the bench.
Wales’ midfield may lack a bit of spark, but that’s a general trend and there is no chance of Hook adding a bit of magic unless it’s at 10.