Bennett backs Phillips

Lions legend Phil Bennett reckons Mike Phillips should be the first name on the British & Irish Lions team sheet in Australia. [more]

Bennett backs Phillips

Lions legend Phil Bennett reckons Mike Phillips should be the first name on the British & Irish Lions team sheet in Australia.

Warren Gatland will end weeks of speculation when he names his touring party on Tuesday.

Phillips is a favourite to be named and Bennett, the 1977 tour captain, reckons he should be a Test starter.

“I just think he’s an outstanding player with a big heart,” said Bennett.

“Yes, he has limitations. If you look at Dwayne Peel he has a quicker service and perhaps a bit sharper. But Mike’s the type of player others follow.

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“He would be the first name down on my Lions team sheet.”

The Wales scrum-half played in all three Tests against the Springboks four years ago, and was one of the heroes of an ultimately unsuccessful tour.

He faces competitions from Conor Murray, Ben Youngs, Danny Care and Greig Laidlaw for s scrum-half spot, but Bennett reckons Phillips is a different class.

“What I love about Mike is that, while people may say he is a slow passer, you never see him take a step backwards,” said Bennett.

“I can see Mike in the dressing room before the Tests getting up for the game and rallying team-mates.

“I have vivid memories of him against Bakkies Botha on the 2009 tour. His attitude was ‘I don’t care how big you are, you’re not coming through me.’

“While the likes of Brian O’Driscoll were wandering around battered and bruised, he never relented.

“Against England in the Six Nations he was taking forwards on and because of his size he could knock them backwards.

“He gets you across that gainline and just think of the vital tries he has scored for Wales, not least two at the last World Cup, especially the one against Ireland in the quarter-final.”

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