James Hook will start for Wales against South Africa at the Millennium Stadium on Saturday after making a last minute plea to the coaches to let him play.
Rugby 365 reports that Hook will undergo surgery on a shoulder problem after Wales face the world champion Springboks and will not travel for the two-Test tour of New Zealand with the rest of the squad later in June.
But the winner of the Welsh Rugby Writer’s player of the year award, who helped the Ospreys lift the Magners League title in Leinster at the weekend, is desperate to represent his country one more time before he goes under the knife.
Hook continues his midfield partnership with Blues centre Jamie Roberts in a side which shows just three changes, plus one positional switch, from the one which finished the Six Nations Championship with a 33-10 victory over Italy in March.
In the backs, Leigh Halfpenny comes in on the wing, in place of Ospreys star Shane Williams, who has withdrawn from the squad and the tour with shoulder problems, with Wales’s youngest international, Tom Prydie, switching wings to win his second cap and allowing Halfpenny to feature on the right-wing.
And there are just two changes up front with Blues second-row Deiniol Jones replacing Dragon Luke Charteris and in the front-row Ospreys prop Paul James replaces the Blues’ Gethin Jenkins.
“James is desperate to play and it just shows how much it means to him to put that red jersey on,” said Wales head coach Warren Gatland.
“We are obviously delighted have him and would particularly like to thank Scott Johnson and Andrew Hore at the Ospreys who have helped to make it possible.
“You only have to look at the man-of-the-match and player of the year awards James has been picking up to see what a great asset he is to any team and we will be facing the World Champions a stronger team because of his involvement.
“We are very much looking forward to the challenge of facing the number one team in the world at the Millennium Stadium in the glorious summer sunshine in front of our home crowd on Saturday afternoon.”
On the bench, Andy Powell completes his return from the calf injury which kept him out of the Blues back row towards the end of the season and for their recent Amlin Challenge Cup success, and is joined by four Ospreys – hooker Huw Bennett, lock Alun Wyn Jones, flyhalf Dan Biggar and centre Andrew Bishop and two Blues colleagues, prop John Yapp and scrumhalf Richie Rees.
“James wants to play and it has come out of the blue for us but we are delighted,” said Wales assistant coach Rob Howley.
“He may feel he has unfinished business against the Springboks having retired early from the Lions tour due to injury, but we very much welcome his enthusiasm and are pleased to be able to form that midfield partnership of James and Jamie [Roberts].”
Newport Gwent Dragons wing Will Harries has also been called up to the squad from the standby list to replace the injured Shane Williams and will join the tour of New Zealand.
Said Howley: “Will has been going extremely well in training and he is a real young talent, one of the uncapped players to be making the trip and he will hopefully learn a lot and continue to put pressure on the rest of the back three.”
Wales: 15 Lee Byrne, 14 Leigh Halfpenny, 13 James Hook, 12 Jamie Roberts, 11 Tom Prydie, 10 Stephen Jones, 9 Mike Phillips, 8 Ryan Jones (captain), 7 Sam Warburton, 6 Jonathan Thomas, 5 Deiniol Jones, 4 Bradley Davies, 3 Adam Jones, 2 Matthew Rees, 1 Paul James.
Replacements: 16 Huw Bennett, 17 John Yapp, 18 Alun Wyn Jones, 19 Andy Powell, 20 Richie Rees, 21 Dan Biggar, 22 Andrew Bishop.