The evening of the 9th January 2015 will go down in Gloucester Rugby history as one of those ‘I was there’ nights. A 81st minute James Hook penalty from the half way line saw the Cherry and Whites grab victory against high flyers Saracens. You can view the kick here. On Wednesday evening the Welshman has announced he will be leaving Kingsholm to return to the Ospreys. Will he be remembered merely as a one kick wonder?
Influence and experience
Some supporters maintain that Hook’s best game at Kingsholm was actually for Perpignan when he scored all the French side’s points in a Heineken Cup match. This was certainly an outstanding individual performance but it underplays the contribution to the team Hook has made. There can be no doubt that he has been a good influence on fellow fly-half Billy Burns. The former England Under-20 man has stepped up into the number ten shirt this season and will only improve with first team experience.
Since joining in 2014 the Welshman has played 62 times for Gloucester and scored 275 points. In the current season in particular his long-range kicking has been a very useful weapon for Gloucester to complement Greig Laidlaw’s consistent close range boot.
James Hook has had to carry the ‘versatile’ tag his whole career and it certainly appeared to hinder his international chances. But Wales’ loss was Gloucester’s gain as they could call on a former British and Irish Lion all season long. With their one and only fullback Tom Marshall injured having Hook’s solid figure at 15 has helped overcome this setback. It has also conveniently allowed Gloucester to field two creative playmakers in Hook and Burns that has helped increase their try count this season.
From a commercial point of view the James Hook signing in 2014 certainly turned some heads and brought some good publicity. It is rarely a bad thing to sign an international player and 81 Wales caps is a big seal of quality. The fact that the Ospreys see his homecoming as a coup suggests Hook’s profile is still high. He is still only 31 and three year contracts aren’t handed out so liberally after a player’s 30th birthday.
While the Saracens kick may be the single memory fans have of James Hook, his contribution over three seasons cannot be underestimated. He will be a big loss to the squad and is another blow at half back with Laidlaw also departing. Results have picked up recently for Gloucester but some serious recruitment is now needed.