Phillips relishing New Zealand Test

Wales scrum-half Mike Phillips is ready for the biggest game of his life, at the Millennium Stadium, and he admits: "It's going to be awesome." [more]

Lions Australia Tour 2013

Wales scrum-half Mike Phillips is ready for the biggest game of his life, at the Millennium Stadium, and he admits: "It’s going to be awesome."

The Six Nations champions tackle Tri-Nations title holders New Zealand in a showdown which celebrates 100 years of Test matches between the countries.

Wales, though, have got it all to do, given a crippling injury list that has sidelined British & Irish Lions quintet Gavin Henson, Tom Shanklin, Dwayne Peel, Gethin Jenkins and Ryan Jones, while a sixth – flanker Martyn Williams – is on compassionate leave following a family bereavement.

But it is also the cue for players like 23-year-old Phillips to step forward as Wales target a first victory over their illustrious southern-hemisphere visitors since 1953.

"I have been a part of the Wales squad for the last couple of years just waiting for my chance," said Phillips, whose physical, no-nonsense style has seen him compared with Welsh scrum-half great Terry Holmes.

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"I’ve got a chance now to show what I can do, and I am going to try and take it.

"I haven’t played a game as big as this before, but this is why you play, this is why you train and this is what you want as a kid – to go out and play for Wales against the best team in the world.

"There will be an electric atmosphere, and it’s going to be awesome to be out there on the field and be a part of it."

Wales coach Mike Ruddock’s options might have been restricted by repeated injury setbacks – a demoralising sequence of events that has shortened odds even further on an All Blacks win – but the underdogs are far from demoralised.

And Phillips has revealed the debt he will owe former Wales captain Rob Howley if Ruddock’s men can cause a huge upset and topple New Zealand following 17 successive defeats them.

Phillips joined Cardiff Blues from Llanelli Scarlets – where he understudied Lions Test scrum-half Peel – during the summer, and a link-up with Blues backs coach Howley is already reaping dividends.

"Rob has been a huge help to me," he added. "Being a scrum-half himself, he’s got total understanding of the game and the position I play.

"I’ve got great respect for him, so I listen to every detail he says. I think he has just given me loads of confidence.

"He is quite strict with me. He is always checking I know the moves and asking me questions on the spot – he’s a really good teacher.

"It is not a vast amount of information, but the little things make such a difference. I feel I am a bit more aware of things now, and the role of the number nine."

Phillips has no regrets about quitting Stradey Park, where he found first-team opportunities restricted through Peel’s considerable presence.

"I had to move on and see what I could do, because I was just on the bench and seen as the number two at Stradey," he said.

"I wasn’t really having the chances in the big games, and I think the move has done me the world of good to be honest.

"I’ve played my first couple of European Cup games this year, and I’ve played against people like Justin Marshall.

"Down at Llanelli, I was on the bench, so it has improved me totally."

Wales won’t lack confidence, despite the All Blacks’ domination of a rivalry that began in 1905.

They have won their last eight Tests since New Zealand beat them 26-25 in a pulsating Cardiff clash last November, taking the scalps of England, France and Ireland, among others, this year.

"We have done our homework," said Ruddock. "We know which areas we want to attack, and we will make sure that we take our opportunities.

"We all remember the clash with New Zealand last November. It was a magnificent match, and one we still believe we should have won.

"Add to that the history factor, and we are looking forward to the kind of game that will hopefully still be talked about in another 100 years.

"New Zealand had a great escape last year, and we are still kicking ourselves that we didn’t win, so our mindset is to front up and really nail this one down."

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