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Priestland blow forces change on Gatland

Wales have made just one change to their starting XV ahead of Saturday’s World Cup semi against France.

Image: David Davies/PA Wire/Press Association Images

WALES COACH WARREN GATLAND has called on James Hook to fill Rhys Priestland’s boots at fly-half in Saturday’s World Cup semi-final against France.

Priestland’s failure to recover from a shoulder injury sees Hook given the nod over veteran Stephen Jones, despite the fact that his two previous starts at the tournament came at full-back.

The switch at 10 is the sole change to the side which flattened Ireland in last weekend’s quarter-final, and Gatland says he has no concerns about Hook’s ability to slot straight in.

“He’s very experienced,” Gatland said. “He’s excited about his opportunity. We know how good he is.”

He’s been running there and looked really sharp in the last two weeks of training. Having played in the XV in the first couple of games, unfortunately picking up an injury, we would have played him a little earlier than this.

A win for Wales in Eden Park would see them through to their first ever World Cup final. But with tournament hosts New Zealand taking on Southern Hemisphere rivals Australia in the other semi, they have managed to avoid most of the spotlight, much to the delight of their coach.

“The fact that we’re in New Zealand is probably easier for us because all the talk is about the All Blacks and Australia and we can hopefully continue to come under the radar,” Gatland said.

People are starting to talk about us a little bit, but not too much. It’s been nice that there hasn’t been too much focus on us, which has been good for us. There hasn’t been too much pressure on us.

Wales: Halfpenny; North, Jonathan Davies, Roberts, Shane Williams; Hook, Roberts; Jenkins, Bennett, Adam Jones; Charteris, Alun Wyn Jones; Lydiate, Warburton, Faletau.

Replacements: Burns, James, Davies, Ryan Jones, Lloyd Williams, Stephen Jones, Scott Williams.

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