THE IMPENDING arrival of James Hook at Gloucester has been hailed as “the final piece in the jig-saw” by club legend Phil Vickery.
It is understood the prodigiously talented Welsh international has agreed terms with the Cherry and Whites on a sensational three-year deal.
An official announcement is expected in the coming days with the club merely awaiting release papers from Perpignan.
Vickery toured South Africa with Hook and the British Lions in 2009 and reckons his signature would be a sensational coup for the club providing there are no last minute glitches that see it fall through.
The England World Cup winner said: “James is someone I was lucky enough to tour with in 2009 and he is certainly someone with all the right credentials needed.
“With the right ball, in the right areas and with the right coaching he can be huge success. He has a vast amount of experience and has had that traditional rugby upbringing down in Wales.
“He has an incredible skill-set and will bring a new dimension to the Gloucester back-line but also that experience and knowhow from all his different selections.
“So James will bring that ability to play a steady game entwined with his ability to do something different by not being afraid to push the boundaries.
“It is a tremendous signing if it comes off- in a way he is the final piece of the jig-saw.”
Vickery is optimistic this summer’s forward reinforcements, the likes of Richard Hibbard, John Afoa and Tom Palmer, will ensure Hook will have the platform from which to orchestrate and with a star-studded prospect outside the prospect is mouth-watering.
The 75-cap international can also operate at an international level at full-back and in the centre which will hand the Cherry and Whites invaluable versatility with Greig Laidlaw, who had been ear-marked as a fly-half now able to play predominantly at his more familiar scrum-half position.
That leaves Gloucester with a wealth of strength in depth across the back line and Vickery reckons that versatility will be key to success.
He said: “When you look at the signings made for next season, particular up front, he will relish coming here and playing behind a pack which will hopefully be going forward, dominating teams and providing quality ball.
“Then you look outside and you have guys like Henry Trinder, Jonny May and James Simpson-Daniel and that is very exciting.
“Obviously he can play in the centre and full-back so he will be a great addition to the squad but it’s that number 10 jersey you can see him in. You just hope he will fit in to the philosophy and plans of whoever is coming in as director of rugby.
“There were a lot of mixed messages when Greig signed over where he would play, whether he would kick goals and with Freddie (Burns) leaving he was perhaps seen as the fly-half.
“Now we are probably looking at him as a scrum-half but in Dan Robson we have one of the brightest, up and coming nines in the country. If he keeps getting opportunities and shows the same determination, will and desire he will be pushing for England very soon.
“It’s great to have that competition, you need it and the ultimate success of Gloucester will be dependent upon it. Players have no right to pull on that Cherry and White jersey they have to earn their place.”
Hook’s international opportunities have been few and far between, and limited to the bench, by Wales in recent seasons. There have been some doubts over his ability to control a game in Warren Gatland’s blood and thunder playing style.
But he will line up in the number 10 jersey for Wales Possibles in Friday night’s old school trial at the Liberty Stadium and Vickery is confident he can pull the strings.
He added: “There is always a lot of negativity in Wales about players and in particular fly-halves but James is as accomplished as any. With age he has learned and matured and he has had some fantastic experiences playing abroad which undoubtedly would have opened his eyes to new things.”