Williams stands by Hook

DUBAI — Shane Williams has spoken out in support of club and country team-mate James Hook after he put his family first and succumbed to French financial force.

By Alex Leach

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Published: Fri 29 Apr 2011, 12:40 AM

Last updated: Mon 6 Apr 2015, 7:21 PM

Hook, 25, played his last game at the Liberty Stadium on Saturday in the Ospreys’ Magners League defeat to Munster (20-22) ahead of a summer switch across the English Channel to Perpignan. He reportedly turned down £1m to stay in the region and will now join the likes of the Clermont Auvergne-bound Lee Byrne, Gareth Delve (Melbourne Rebels) and prospectively Mike Phillips in plying his trade abroad.

Such an exodus has raised question marks as to how Welsh rugby union can reverse the talent drain to France and further afield. But, Williams believes the highly-talented centre has made the right decision in the best interests of those closest to him off the pitch.

“It’s difficult as I’m a little bit different to some of the guys that have move away,” the diminutive winger, who has spent his entire 13-year career so far playing for either Neath or the Ospreys, said. “I know players do play for the love of the game, but – financially, sometimes – when you’ve got a family and young children to consider, you do have to look after them as well. “In some instances, like with James Hook, the money and the financial side of it certainly influenced his decision to go to Perpignan and – sometimes – that’s rightly so.

“He needs to look after baby Harrison and Kim and the money that is in France is difficult to turn down. That’s the reality of it.” The mass departure of Hook and his countrymen to pastures new has led Ospreys chief Mike Cuddy to speculate upon a time in the not too distant future when none of Warren Gatland’s Welsh XV represent a domestic club back home. It’s generally thought Gatland has introduced a regime, dubbed ‘Gatland’s Law’, whereby no player turning out overseas can represent Wales – a homegrown rule also deployed by England counterpart Martin Johnson.

However, that system is likely to come under increasing strain as more and more big names are enticed away by the eye-catching, lucrative offers from interested parties in mainland Europe.

“You lose the likes of Lee Byrne and Gareth Delve, who has gone to Australia. That’s been a great decision for him as he’s playing his best rugby at the moment, so what to you do?” the 2008 IRB International Player of the Year added.

“It’s difficult for Wales. The pool and the talent of players we’ve got compared to other countries isn’t as deep and, if you are going to lose the likes of Lee Byrne, James Hook and possibly others as well to other countries, then it certainly is going to affect the Welsh rugby team. “It’s a difficult one and I don’t know if it’s a step Wales can take. England have turned around and said it, but then they’ve got (Toulon fly-half) Jonny Wilkinson, who is getting back into the squad again.

“I really don’t know how it’s going to work, but you cannot blame some of the guys for looking to go abroad these days because the financial side of it is almost too good to be true and unbelievable at times.” Williams knows only too well what sums are being put on the table too for the much-prized winger had proposals pitched to him prior to resigning for a further two years in Swansea.

“I had the chance to go abroad and was offered a lot of money to go and play out in France,” he added.

“But, the reason I stayed in the end was simply down to the fact that I feel I have a little bit more to give to the Ospreys.

“I want to continue my relationship with them when I’ve finished playing rugby and I’m quite a loyal person anyway. “I’m also married, with two children, and I didn’t want to move my family to another country.

Shane Williams was speaking ahead of tonight’s game between the Ospreys and local side TOA — a free-to-enter, exhibition game to raise awareness of the natural disasters in Christchurch, New Zealand, and Japan. Kick-off at 7he Sevens ground is 7:30pm.


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