Wales scrum-half Mike Phillips has been handed a swift return to professional club rugby after Racing Metro snapped him up on a two-and-a-half-year deal.
Phillips had been without a club since having his contract with Bayonne terminated in October for allegedly turning up drunk to a video analysis session. But Racing revealed they had approached the 31-year-old over a future move to the Stade Olympique Yves-du-Manoir before the alleged events that led to his early exit from Bayonne.
A statement published on Racing’s official website read: “Racing Metro 92 welcome the signing of Wales international Mike Phillips. Racing have been in discussion with Phillips’ representatives for several months to recruit him for the 2014-15 season.
“Recent events that took place in Bayonne have only hastened his arrival in the Hauts-de-Seine. Phillips is committed for a per-iod of two-and-a-half years. He will be at the club on Tuesday and can feature in the European Cup meeting with Harlequins in Nantes on Saturday.”
Phillips was sacked by Bayonne after he was accused of being intoxicated when the squad met on 11 October, the morning after Grenoble had been defeated 37-6 in the Amlin Challenge Cup. The two-time British and Irish Lions tourist subsequently announced he planned to issue legal proceedings against Bayonne after hearing of his dismissal through a French newspaper.
Phillips played in three of Wales’s four autumn internationals in November, featuring in the win over Argentina and the defeats to South Africa and Australia. At Paris-based Racing, he will link up fellow Lions Jonathan Sexton, Jamie Roberts and Dan Lydiate.
Meanwhile, England winger Christian Wade was ruled out of the Six Nations yesterday after suffering a serious left foot injury playing for Wasps in Saturday’s Premiership victory over London Irish. Wade, 22, will be sidelined for up to six months, Wasps confirmed on their website, adding that he required surgery to repair “significant ligament damage”.
Wade joins a growing list of players missing from the England squad, including 21-year-old London Irish winger Marland Yarde, who ruptured a tendon in his hip a week earlier.
It was also announced yesterday that England will play Tests in Auckland, Dunedin and Hamilton when they tour New Zealand next summer. The series opens at Eden Park on 7 June, continues at Forsyth Barr Stadium seven days later and concludes at Waikato Stadium on 21 June. One midweek match has been scheduled against seven-times Super Rugby champions the Crusaders in Christchurch.
Rugby Championship dates for 2014 were also announced yesterday and New Zealand will play their first Test in almost 20 years at Napier’s McLean Park when they host Argentina.
Steve Hansen’s side will meet the Pumas in round three of the annual competition on 6 September after initially playing Australia in the opening game in Sydney on 16 August and then turning round against the Wallabies in Auckland on 23 August.
England’s 2014 tour to New Zealand:
Sat, 7 June: First Test - Eden Park, Auckland
Sat, 14 June: Second Test - Forsyth Barr Stadium, Dunedin
Tue, 17 June: Crusaders - AMI (Addington) Stadium, Christchurch
Sat, 21 June: Third Test - Waikato Stadium, Hamilton.
2014 Rugby Championship
16 Aug: Australia v New Zealand, South Africa v Argentina
23 Aug: New Zealand v Australia,
Argentina v South Africa
6 Sep: New Zealand v Argentina, Australia v South Africa
13 Sep: New Zealand v South Africa,
Australia v Argentina
27 Sep: South Africa v Australia,
Argentina v New Zealand
4 Oct: South Africa v New Zealand,
Argentina v Australia