Wales’ Mike Phillips full of positive intent after demotion
Mike Phillips is ready to lead from the front when he reclaims Wales’ No 9 shirt against Samoa tonight.
Phillips’ demotion to bench duty ahead of Wales facing Argentina last weekend caused many raised eyebrows as interim head coach Rob Howley opted for inexperienced Scarlets scrum-half Tavis Knoyle instead.
Bayonne-based Phillips’ inability to attend a pre-autumn Tests training camp in Poland because of club commitments was an undoubted factor behind Knoyle starting and the 30-year-old winning his 69th cap as a replacement.
It was only the second time in 38 appearances since the 2008 Six Nations Championship that Phillips had not started for Wales. “Preparation wasn’t great for me for last week’s game,” he said. “I didn’t go to Poland, where a lot of work was done, so I guess maybe it [not being picked to start against Argentina] was a possibility. But whenever I wear the jersey, I am going to give absolutely everything. People know that. There is always pressure, but you have just got to play your role and give it everything.”
Phillips, wing George North, centre Jamie Roberts, prop Paul James and No 8 Toby Faletau are the only Welsh survivors from last year’s punishing World Cup pool clash against Samoa in New Zealand – a 17-10 win.
And, with Wales’ past two victories over the South Sea Islanders being by a combined total of only 11 points, Phillips knows a rigorous evening’s work awaits.
“It is another tough game against a top side,” he added. “I thought they were great in the World Cup last year and were a bit unlucky at times. It is going to be an extremely physical game. They are going to come out gunning for us.
“The physical element is there with Samoa – it was a tough game in the World Cup last year. They have some great players, genuine [side] steppers who can off-load, so they are a major treat. They turned Australia over last year and we will give them massive respect, but we’ve got to take it to them.”
TEAMS: Wales: L Halfpenny, A Cuthbert, A Beck, J Roberts, G North, D Biggar, M Phillips; T Faletau, J Tipuric, R Jones (capt), I Evans, B Davies, A Jarvis, R Hibbard, P James. Replacements: K Owens, G Jenkins, S Andrews, L Charteris, S Warburton, T Knoyle, R Priestland, S Williams
Samoa: F Autagavaia, P Perez, G Pisi, P Williams, D Lemi (captain), T Pisi, K Fotuali’i; T Tuifua, M Fa’asavalu, O Treviranus, F Paulo, D Leo, C Johnston, O Avei, S Taulafo. Replacements: T Paulo, V Afatia, J Johnston, T Fomai, J Su’a, J Leota, R Lilomaiava.
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