Can Stevie Wonder stop a potential crisis at 10? Well, That's What Friends Are For...
Stephen Jones's late call up to the squad cannot really be labelled a shock. Let's review here: the man has 104 caps for Wales, has made 307 appearances for the Scarlets alone and currently lies second in the all-time points table for Europe's premier club competition the Heineken Cup. Experience like that is invaluable, and his inclusion now only makes his omission last week all the more baffling.
I noted at the time of the Welsh training squad's announcement that there was surprisingly little cover options at stand-off; and lo and behold the incumbent 10 Rhys Priestland limped off the field in the final Heineken pool game of the season with what looks to be a reasonably serious knee injury. That leaves James Hook and Gavin Henson as the only clear options at fly-half... if you can call them that.
Hook, a vastly talented player renowned the world over is not by a long shot a consistent starter in the Wales first XV. Perhaps cursed by his plethora of talents on the field, the former Osprey has been shunted from 10, to 12, to 15 without being able to nail down any one position. The label of 'utility player' has been more of a hinderance than a help to him, as it has turned out with fellow Welshman Jonathan Thomas in recent times.
Henson... is there much to say that hasn't already been said? Everyone has their own opinion about whether his inclusion in the preliminary squad was justified. I myself think he is a hugely talented player, but 3 games for the Blues in two different positions for me isn't enough justification for inclusion in the national set-up. He's been out of rugby, let alone Welsh rugby, for quite awhile and thrusting him back in after only a few months is a very risky gamble.
That said, the Gatland-era hasn't exactly been gamble and risk-free. Many argued the selection (albeit last-minute) of Priestland at fly-half in the summer was a risk; he ended up being lauded as one of the best 10s in the tournament and a major player to watch out for in years to come. Gambling on either Hook or Henson at fly-half could turn out to be a masterstroke. But the fact remains, neither have really proven themselves internationally in this position, and arguably both function much better at first-receiver, operating inside a consistent fly-half.
With the injury toll mounting, it looks as though Wales could make the trip over to Ireland missing a third of their team; Priestland, Dan Lydiate and Gethin Jenkins all suffered injuries last weekend and preferred second row partnership Alun Wyn Jones and Luke Charteris are both still carrying injuries. So many frontline players missing in a tough tournament like the Six Nations surely calls for a calm head and experience - no one epitomises these qualities quite like Stephen Jones.
It may be Superstitious, but I've always thought Jones has to be included, precisely for times like these. And For Once In My Life, it looks like I may be right..