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James Hook's remarkable rugby journey from Neath to Grand Slam glory

James Hook has announced his retirement from rugby Credit: PA

Former Wales rugby international James Hook says he can look back at his career with pride as he sets his sights on coaching.

The Ospreys back announced he will retire from the sport at the end of the season.

James Hook started and will now end his professional career at the Ospreys. Credit: PA

He's played in 81 tests between 2006 and 2015, and was involved in two grand slams and three Six-Nations winning sides. His career on the world stage is just as impressive having played in three World Cups.

But it's playing at the Principality Stadium in Cardiff that he looks back at most fondly:

When I played against Australia in Cardiff that what when it really hit home. The Principality Stadium is a great stadium, great atmosphere, so be able to do that in front of my family was amazing. It's just an incredible stadium and obviously I'm biased but it's the best stadium in the world.

– James Hook
Hook says looks back fondly at his first cap for Wales on home ground. Credit: PA

From Neath to Grand Slam glory:

Hook enjoyed success for Neath RFC, where he began his senior career in 2004. He became the record holder for the highest individual points tally within a season.

In 2006 he started his professional career with the Ospreys, where he won two league titles. Between 2011 and 2016, he had stints with Perpignan and Gloucester before returning to the Ospreys in 2016.

It's where he will now finish his professional career.

But it was while he was still playing for Neath when he was called up to the international stage by Wales in 2006.

It happened really quick for me, I was still playing for Neath when I had my first cap. You probably think you have to play 30 games for your region then you go on to your country but it can happen so quick.

From a young boy I didn't think you'd achieve that. It's because I loved the game and never saw it as a job. you've got to sacrifice things and work hard and now when I look back, I can look back with pride.

– James Hook
''We were all just young boys just living our dreams'' says Hook. Credit: PA

It was in the 2007 Six Nations where he made his impact and all eyes turned to the boy from Port Talbot. In the final game of the competition he put on a match-winning performance against England, scoring 22 points in their 27–18 win. A victory that helped Wales avoid the wooden spoon.

He said, ''It's one of my favourite games, I've always enjoyed playing against England. It was a good day, it does only feel like yesterday.''

Hook matched his performance the following year in the 2008 Six Nations, this time helping Wales triumph to Grand Slam glory - and his first.

Hook made his mark on the international stage at the 2007 Six Nations. Credit: PA

The next chapter:

As the 34-year-old looks to hang up his playing boots, he has his eyes set firmly on the next chapter of his life.

Hook is looking forward to using his wealth of experience to build a credible coaching career. Not unusual for former professionals, but it's another venture he's chasing that's perhaps a little less conventional - writing children's books.

My oldest son, Harrison, wanted a rugby book at a book fair but there was nothing there in terms of rugby. I just left there thinking there was a bit of an opportunity. It's something I'm excited about and hopefully it will go well.

– James Hook

Inspired by his own journey, the books are centred around a young rugby player with dreams of reaching the top.

Chasing a Rugby Dream: Kick-Off is set for release in the spring.

  • See the full interview with James Hook on our Youtube channel here.