Phillips repays the faith

2009 Lions star Mike Phillips has more than repaid the faith his long-standing mentor put in him 14-years ago. [more]

Phillips repays the faith

2009 Lions star Mike Phillips has more than repaid the faith his long-standing mentor put in him 14-years ago.

 

Phillips was just 15-years-old when Whiteland age-grade coach Barry Proctor spotted the potential and handed the future Lions tourist the number nine jersey against popular opinion.

But that shrewd decision is still paying dividends with Phillips setting the Rugby World Cup alight. He will face France tomorrow in the biggest game of his life but had it not been for Proctor the aggressive scrum-half might never have trodden on the Millennium Stadium turf let alone Eden Park tomorrow.

"I was coaching a few of Mikey's mates at Whitland under-15s," said Proctor.  "He came along one day and wanted to play so I had him training on the Friday and registered him to play on the Sunday against Cardigan. The only problem was he wanted to play flanker and I thought he was a nine.

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"He could pass with both hands and kick with both feet so I convinced him to give it a go and promised if he wasn't enjoying it I would switch him to the back row. But he scored a hat-trick of tries by half-time and when I asked him to swap jerseys he wouldn't.

"His school and family still weren't happy and wanted to know what I was playing at. But I was convinced he would go on to win representative honours and I ended up betting his brother Rob, who was the first xv scrumhalf, that Mikey would one day play at nine for Wales.

"He paid up a couple of years ago but he's still bitter that I took his money and was right all along!"

Phillips produced a man-of-the-match performance against Ireland in the quarter-finals last week and insists nothing will change against Les Bleus.

"It was a pretty important try against Ireland but the effort from all the players was superb in defence and attack," said Phillips.

"We have prepared well again for France. Everyone is individual in their preparations but at the end of the day it?s just another game of rugby, you can?t think too much about it.

"You have to be natural, go out enjoy it and express yourselves on the pitch. We've prepared in the best possible way, been really determined, disciplined and focussed.

"We haven't won anything yet, it's great to be in the semis but we want to go to the final and all the way."

Bu the  Bayonne-bound half-back is under no illusions of the threat France pose.

He added: "They're a great side, everyone knows they can turn it on whenever they want and beat anyone in world rugby.

"I've got a massive respect for France. They have some tremendous players, who can turn games.

"As a youngster growing up I was a big fan of them, they have a lot of flair and love throwing the ball around. They're a great side and we'll have to be switched on."

 

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