When It Happens Panel Get involved: send your photos, videos, news & views by texting 'OXFORD NEWS' to 80360 or email
Athletic Islanders are a real threat
THE Pacific Islands may have had limited time bonding as a team but centre Tom Shanklin feels their natural athleticism means Wales face a dangerous outfit on Saturday afternoon.
The mix of Tongans, Samoans and Fijians will pit the hosts against the likes of Rupeni Caucaunibuca, Alex and Henry Tuilagi, Daniel Leo and Semo Sititi, destructive runners with ball in hand.
And after Wales laboured to a 11-10 win over Fiji last campaign, Shanklin knows that the clash is far from a walkover that will ensure they return to winning ways.
He said: "We are looking for a win but it's a difficult game this weekend because although they have not trained together or played together as a team they are still great athletes, every single one of them. They are all big, they are all powerful, they are all fast, so that's tough enough as it is.
"Fiji was a bit of an eye-opener last season. We can't take the Pacific Islands lightly, it's difficult to analyse a team like that because they are all from different places so a lot of it will be how they come out on the day.
"And Caucau is a special player. He is the size of a prop but he is the fastest winger in the world of rugby. He is definitely going to be a threat but the good thing is that he is on the wing so hopefully we will be able to cut the ball off from him to stop him doing too much."
It is expected that Wales coach Gareth Jenkins will take the opportunity to rest a number of those who turned out in the draw with Australia, though Shanklin is keen to get the nod to put right some aspects of his play that he felt were below par.
"I'm ready to play and I want to make amends for last Saturday," he said. "It was a strange feeling when the final whistle went - there wasn't really much emotion shown, although it was a draw a lot of us felt it was a loss really.
"We didn't play that great, we attacked well but it wasn't great defence by us and some of that is down to individuals - I messed up a couple of times.
"I think when you look back it was a draw and we could have won it, but we didn't play the better rugby, Australia did.
"We all want to be positive now. In previous autumn internationals we have lost heavily and while we still didn't play particularly well, we did get the draw."
NEIL Jenkins has added his voice to those praising James Hook, though it was the 21-year-old's performance with the boot in the cauldron of Argentina rather than last Saturday that convinced the kicking coach that he was something special, writes Chris Kirwan.
The spotlight has fallen on Hook since his performance as a replacement for skipper Stephen Jones in the draw with Australia.
And Jenkins, who amassed 1,090 with the boot at international level, believes the Ospreys outside half possesses the temperament to develop his early promise.
Jenkins said: "Stephen (Jones) and Gavin (Henson) are pretty experienced now and James is not, but it seemed like he had been there for a long, long time on Saturday.
"I think he showed something special in Argentina when he took the (kicking) duties for the second Test and he kicked four out of five and that's not a great place to play, it's very hostile.
"He's got a very level head on him and he is doing exceptionally well. I don't think anything seems to faze him. His all-round game is fantastic, he gets the back line going well, he has got great hands, he is strong defensively, as you have seen with the tackle on Tuqiri, and obviously his kicking is excellent.
"And he is only going to grow with the more games he plays and the older he gets. He is going to get better and better."
Jenkins is enjoying his role with coach Gareth Jenkins' squad, and it has served as a reminder of when he had to endure the pressures that go with the Welsh number ten jersey.
"I'm just as nervous really," he said. "A couple of days before the Australia game the stomach was turning over a bit.
"But I'm not quite as bad as when I was playing - I wasn't sick on Saturday which is a good thing! You still get nervous, especially when it was quite tight, and I suppose that is something I will just have to get used to.
"It's brilliant for me to be involved, I'm very passionate and I want Wales to do well. I haven't got as big a role as Gareth, Nigel (Davies), Rowland (Phillips) or Robin (McBryde) but I still have an important job and if we are kicking well it does keep the team going and moves us forward, and I think Saturday proved that."