Phillips poised to face old friends

Wed, 08 Jan 2014 18:42
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Wales scrumhalf Mike Phillips looks set to make his home debut for Racing Metro against his first professional side when the Scarlets head to Paris this Friday.

Wales scrumhalf Mike Phillips looks set to make his home debut for Racing Metro against his first professional side when the Scarlets head to Paris this Friday.

The European Cup Round Five encounter will pitch the 80 times capped, double Grand Slam winning scrumhalf against one of his main rivals or the Wales jersey in the upcoming Six Nations, Rhodri Williams, in a game that is a must-win for both teams.

"Growing up as a kid I always supported the Scarlets, even though the club was called Llanelli at the time, and it's where I got my start in professional rugby. I had two years in the Llanelli Under-21s and then two seasons in the first team before moving to Cardiff," said Phillips.

"Playing my first home game for Racing against my first professional club has a nice ring to it."

The two teams fought out a 26-26 draw in Round Two at Parc y Scarlets and both coaches know that nothing other than victory will do if they are to keep in the fight for a ticket into the quarterfinal of either the European Cup or the European Challenge Cup.

The Scarlets will go into the game on the back of two successive derby defeats at the hands of the Ospreys, while Phillips and his Racing teammates are still bouncing after their victory over European champions Toulon, even though they lost to Oyonnax at the weekend.

"We have a very important three weeks coming up, with European Cup matches against the Scarlets and Clermont, followed by a home game with Toulouse. It is important that we maintain momentum, improve in every game and get some more big wins," added Phillips.

"Our last game at home was superb - a great win against Toulon. At home again this weekend it is crucial we retain that momentum. Teams who come to play us have to know that they are in for a fight, and that they will have to scrap for every point."

While it has been some time since Phillips was a star at the Scarlets, he still knows a number of players there very well, including his Test halfback partner Rhys Priestland. He also played with current coaches Simon Easterby and Mark Jones.

"The first message to my Racing teammates will be to beware of the Scarlets. Over the years, they have always had dangerous backs, and when I followed them as a kid they were always an exciting team to watch.

"They play a wide, expansive game that is part of the identity of the club. They will be coming over here to throw the ball around, because that is traditionally the Scarlets' style.

"But this is a very young side and they seem to be even more expansive - running the ball even more than in the past. They are young players, full of confidence and with nothing to lose, so I'm expecting a tough game."

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