For those repeatedly disappointed by the unwillingness of Warren Gatland, the Wales head coach, to trust in the maverick talent of James Hook. Finally out of alternatives Gatland recalled him to the squad this week and has included him in the 23 for tomorrow’s meeting with Fiji which could pretty much see Wales secure a quarter-final place. The way the 30-year-old has been marginalised has perhaps been understandable given his unwillingness to play his rugby in Wales and the quality of the options available in his preferred role at stand off in particular where Rhys Priestland and Dan Biggar seem more trusted in terms of following the gameplan. However it is still staggering to think that a player of his capabilities has started just three Tests since the last World Cup, none of them significant matches, either. His versatility could yet prove vital and all Wales will be hoping that, just as happened when Shane Williams, previously on the periphery of the Wales squad, seized his chance at the 2003 World Cup 12, this tournament will be the moment when Hook reinvents himself at the highest level. The halfway stage has been reached and in spite of the shocks of the World Cup’s first weekend natural order is being restored.
Admittedly there is no chance of the same eight teams reaching the knockout stages as last time, but that was impossible from the time the draw was made and Pool B contained only one of those quarter-finalists.
In spite of the favour Scotland was done by that draw getting through is still not guaranteed, however it is 20 years since Samoa contested a quarterfinal, while South Africa finished bottom of the Rugby Championship for the first time this season.
By contrast, what might have confronted them had it not been for what now looks like an anomaly in the world rankings at the time the draw was made is beginning to become clear which could work to their advantage because in Pool A, which matches up against Pool B come the quarter-finals, three of the world’s best teams were always going to knock lumps out of one another.
For all that they were deemed to have slipped up by failing to pick up a bonus point against Fiji, Australia were the main beneficiaries of Saturday’s epic clash at Twickenham that has left both the England and Wales squads injury ravaged.
Admittedly they can anticipate a frenzy when they take their turn to visit Twickenham on Saturday but for all that they have had injury problems too, they go there as the Southern Hemisphere champions relatively fresh, mentally and physically.