Wales

Boozy Phillips cracks Wales nod

Tue, 22 Oct 2013 14:41
Mike-phillips-wales-points Mike-phillips-h_s
We face a huge game against South Africa first up
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Wales coach Warren Gatland has named controversial scrumhalf Mike Phillips in a 35-man squad for next month's Tests against South Africa, Argentina, Tonga and Australia.

Phillips faced a meeting with Bayonne directors on Tuesday after he allegedly attended a players' video analysis session at the French club earlier this month while under the influence of alcohol.

Phillips, who has won 77 caps, could find himself facing a club suspension and a substantial fine.

The powerful No.9, who was dropped for last Thursday's European Challenge Cup defeat by Wasps, has been involved in disciplinary trouble earlier in his career.

He was fined and suspended for 10 days by Bayonne for an off-field incident last year, and was banned by Wales in 2011 following a confrontation with a doorman in Cardiff.

But Gatland, who had Phillips on board while coaching the British and Irish Lions during their recent 2-1 series win in Australia, said: "All I can say over the last campaigns with us he has been great.

"He conducted himself extremely well with the Lions in Australia, both on and off the field. I am expecting that same sort of attitude from him when he is involved in this [year-end] campaign.

"Obviously, there are slight concerns about making sure this is something that does not continue to be repeated.

"We will just sit down and have a quiet chat about where his head's at and what he's doing, but there will be no sanctions for him here in this set-up."

While Phillips was included in a squad again captained by Sam Warburton, there were no places for injured Lions backs Jamie Roberts and Alex Cuthbert, both suffering with ankle problems.

But Perpignan utility back James Hook was included in a squad based largely on the group that won last season's Six Nations Championship.

"We have an important campaign ahead as we look to test ourselves against some of the best sides in the world, but also add strength in depth to our squad as we look to the future," Gatland said.

"We face a huge game against South Africa first up, and they will be coming to us after an impressive Rugby Championship campaign.

"Recent matches between us have been very close and physical, and that will be a great test for us to kick-off," the New Zealander added.

"The Rugby World Cup is less than two years away, so we are looking to build as much depth in our squad as possible and to give vital international experience to our players."

Gatland has overseen three Six Nations titles, two Grand Slams and a World Cup semifinal appearance since taking charge of Wales in 2008.

But the country's record in that same period against the southern hemisphere giants of New Zealand, South Africa and Australia has been dire, with just one win - against Australia in 2008 - compared to 20 defeats.

Wales lost all four of their corresponding end-of-year-Tests in 2012.

Wales squad: Rhodri Williams, Mike Phillips, Lloyd Williams, Dan Biggar, Rhys Patchell, Rhys Priestland, Jon Davies, Ashley Beck, Scott Williams, Cory Allen, Owen Williams, James Hook, George North, Eli Walker, Leigh Halfpenny, Liam Williams, Scott Andrews, Adam Jones, Aaron Jarvis, Paul James, Gethin Jenkins, Ryan Bevington, Richard Hibbard, Ken Owens, Emyr Phillips, Alun Wyn Jones, Luke Charteris, Ian Evans, Bradley Davies, Andrew Coombs, Ryan Jones, Justin Tipuric, Sam Warburton (captain), Toby Faletau, Dan Lydiate.

AFP

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