James Hook will become the 15th player to clock up a century of appearances for the Ospreys when he runs out for the crunch Heineken Cup clash against London Irish at the Madejski Stadium on Sunday afternoon.
Still only 25, Baglan boy Hook made his debut for the region way back in September 2004 when he came off the bench late on in a 39-3 win over Cardiff Blues at the Gnoll, just months after his 19th birthday. It was his solitary appearance that season, and was followed by a single outing off the bench against Connacht the following campaign, before he really began to establish himself as an Osprey during 2006/07.
After starting the opening game of the campaign, a 17-11 win over Edinburgh at the Liberty Stadium, he went on to make 25 appearances that season, scoring 228 points. Going into Sunday’s game, he sits second in the region’s all-time points scoring table on 767, just 21 behind Gavin Henson.
Speaking about reaching 100 caps, Hook said:
“It’s a massive achievement for me personally. It’s my home region, I’ve grown up here and to play 100 games for the region is something I can be proud of. When you start off I don’t think you look at landmarks and stats, you don’t look too far ahead at how many caps you’ll get or whatever, you are just pleased to be playing. When it does come around, you look back with a great sense of achievement and satisfaction that the hard work you’ve put in meant something.
“There are loads of highlights that I can pick out. At the top I think is the Sale game in the Heineken Cup, when I came on and scored the conversion to win it after Shane’s late try. It was one of my first real tastes of top-level regional rugby and I loved it. Biarritz in the quarter-final last year is up there as well. I know we lost, but it was a great experience, a game we maybe should have won, but with the crowd, the weather and everything it was a great game to be involved in. It was a big disappointment that we didn’t win, which is why we are so desperate to make up for it this season. The local derbies give me lots of good memories as well. Beating the Scarlets always makes you happy!
“I know that Gavin’s record is getting close as well but I won’t worry too much about that. I’ll take each game as it comes, if there are points on offer I’ll try to take what I can but I won’t dwell on it too much. If I get it or not it, won’t last for long because Dan is chipping away there. If I do get it it’s a nice achievement, but first and foremost is winning these next two games and then focusing as a team on what follows, anything else is secondary.
“I’ve said that I’m moving on at the end of the season, but it’s nice to think that I won’t be stuck forever on the figure I finish with in May. I’ve already said that when I come back to Wales it’ll be with the Ospreys, if they want me. Like I said, it’s my home region.”
Head Coach Sean Holley paid tribute to James on becoming the latest Ospreys centurion, saying:
“It seems to have come around pretty quick. It only seems like yesterday that James made his debut, coming off the bench against the Blues to replace Gavin Henson. Since that day we’ve seen him grow and mature with the Ospreys, we’ve seen his versatility and his class, and with the way the modern game is, he’s well suited to our team as a second 10, something that has been proven by his performances in the last two years.
“He’s a tremendous asset to the Ospreys, and if he does leave us at the end of the season for personal reasons, he will obviously be missed. The one thing I will say about James Hook is that he is a class act all round. It’s been a pleasure being present at all of his 99 caps to date, and to be there for his 100th on Sunday.
“James is young enough to go away looking for experience, and then to return home with plenty of good years ahead of him. If he does return to Wales, certainly from my point of view, I’d be delighted to see him come back to his home region and add to his growing number of appearances for the Ospreys. I know James feels strongly about the area, about the Ospreys, and about the people here, and it’s not an easy decision for him but I certainly hope that in the future he will be able to add to the total.”
The previous Ospreys centurions are Barry Williams, Shaun Connor, Paul James, Duncan Jones, Adam Jones, Jonathan Thomas, Sonny Parker, Shane Williams, Andrew Bishop, Steve Tandy, Huw Bennett, Alun Wyn Jones, Richard Hibbard and Ryan Jones.