Hook hoping to shine
James Hook believes a testing first season with Perpignan can help him mount a strong challenge for the Wales number 10 shirt.
The 26-year-old made the move to France from the Ospreys last summer after becoming frustrated at not being handed an extended run in his favoured fly-half position.
Having been hailed as Wales' long-term future at fly-half when he burst onto the scene in 2006, Hook had suffered for his versatility, and was used regularly as a centre and full-back by the Ospreys and Wales.
Perpignan have traditionally been one of the powerhouses of the French game, and were in the middle of a run to the Heineken Cup semi-finals when Hook agreed his move to Stade Aime Giral.
But his maiden Top 14 campaign proved to be an arduous affair as the Catalan club fought a prolonged battle against relegation, eventually finishing just two places above the drop zone.
And while the season may not have gone as he expected, Hook has no doubt that he has benefited from the experience and that it can help him challenge Rhys Priestland for the red number 10 jersey when Wales face the Wallabies over three Tests next month.
He said: "I have learnt a lot, especially in the second part of the season when we were under a lot of pressure, we were near the bottom end of the table and it was about winning, it wasn't particularly pretty.
"For an outside-half it was good for me to play week in week out in high pressure games, to see out those games and win them. We were fortunate enough to do that against some good sides at the end of the season.
"It was important for me to settle somewhere and play week in week out.
"It's probably the first time since my Neath days that I have played so many games on the trot at outside-half.
"I feel confident going on to the pitch, I feel happy where I am and I am enjoying it which is what it is all about."
Hook, who is a candidate to start Wales' June 2 appointment with the Baa-Baas ahead of the Test series Down Under, has toured Australia before.
He was part of the Wales squad that suffered a 2-0 series defeat in 2007, but only after being denied victory in the first Test by an injury-time try from Wallabies replacement Stephen Hoiles.
But Hook says this Welsh side will prove a very different proposition for Australia.
"We did well in the World Cup and in the Six Nations," he added.
"Winning big games gives you confidence and it would be massive to get something down there and it will make the southern hemisphere sides take notice.
"We were so close in 2007 and there is no reason why we can't beat them this time."
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