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Gatland stoical over Priestland injury.

Summary: Warren Gatland says it was a tough call to pick James Hook over Stephen Jones to replace fly-half Rhys Priestland against France.

Wales coach Warren Gatland says it was a tough call to pick James Hook over Stephen Jones to wear the number 10 against France.

Hook dons the shirt after Rhys Priestland lost his fitness battle for the Eden Park encounter. The fly-half suffered a shoulder injury in the quarter-finals win against Ireland last weekend which forced him off just three minutes from time.

Other than Priestland watching the game from the sides, the Wales squad is unchanged from the Ireland line-up, with Jones replacing Hook on the benches.

Gatland, however, is stoical about the swap: "You pick up injuries, but you can't dwell on that.

"We have been very impressed with the way Rhys has played - he has done everything we have asked of him, and more, during this World Cup.

"It was a tough call between James and Stephen, and we have got a lot of experience to come into the team."

The coach is piloting his team through their first World Cup semi-final since 1987, and has put forward a strong squad including wing George North, centre Jamie Roberts, scrum-half Mike Phillips, skipper Sam Warburton and number eight Toby Faletau.

Gatland added: "We know that the people in Wales and the fans that have travelled here are excited about reaching the semi-finals of the World Cup, and we are too, but beating France on Saturday must be, and will be, our sole focus.

"The time to reflect and to celebrate will come if we win our next two matches. Until that happens, our focus on the task ahead must be absolute."

The game will not be an easy one, however. Wales have lost nine of their last 11 encounters with France, and have only beaten them once.

That victory, however, was in the Six Nations title and Grand Slam-winning campaign three years ago, which was Gatland's first at the helm.

Around 51,000 free tickets have been snapped up for a Millennium Stadium showing of the semi-final on Saturday morning.

Independent Television News Limited 2011. All rights reserved.

Independent Television News Limited 2011. All rights reserved.

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Publication:Independent Television News Limited (ITN)
Date:Oct 13, 2011
Words:379
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