Phillips ready for Basque battle

Mike Phillips is hoping to pick up where he left off on the last British & Irish Lions tour and get the 125th anniversary event off to a winning start in Hong Kong. [more]

Phillips ready for Basque battle

Mike Phillips is hoping to pick up where he left off on the last British & Irish Lions tour and get the 125th anniversary event off to a winning start in Hong Kong.

Phillips was part of the Lions team that won the third Test in Johannesburg four years ago and he’s hoping to use his start against the Barbarians today to prove he is ready to extend his Test status in Australia.

“Four years ago we talked about how important it was to finish on a high ready for this tour. It was really important. The tour was a huge success in many ways, although it was gutting we lost the series,” said Phillips.

“This is the ultimate. You want to play your best and I felt in 2009 I played some of my best stuff. You are surrounded by great players and you don’t want to let anyone down.

“I was pretty pleased with my own performances, but I’ve got to go one better and be part of a Test series winning team. Everyone will be given a chance and we all want a Test jersey.

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“You have to take your opportunity and show how much it means to you and how much you want it. I’m pleased to be starting and it’s pretty exciting stuff.

“Ever since the squad was announced we have been waiting to get things going. Training has been great but it’s all about playing and now we have got a chance to show what we can do.”

Since he last pulled on a Lions jersey Phillips has won another Grand Slam with Wales and a Championship title as well as moving to France to play his club rugby in Bayonne. That means there will be an extra edge to his battle with Barbarians scrum half Dimitri Yachvili today, who plays for Bayonne’s deadly rivals Biarritz Olympique.

“I’ve played against Yachvili a fair few times and he is a great player. He lives in the Basque country with me and we are big rivals,” said Phillips.

“Basque derbies are pretty special and the atmosphere is incredible. We have parents running on the field and fighting – it is an experience in itself.

“The rugby is different in France. A bit more kicking, it’s more forward orientated and tactical. But I’m loving it.

“Since I’ve been there Welsh rugby has done well. We’ve won a Grand Slam and a championship so it must have benefitted me somewhat. I am really happy there and love the lifestyle – it has been a great experience.”

Phillips will kick-off his second Lions tour with a new half-back partner in England’s Owen Farrell. They have never played together before, but Phillips has been impressed by what he’s seen from the Saracens youngster so far in training.

“I’ve been getting on really well with Owen. He is a really good guy, very down to earth and we’ve been having a laugh. He is quality on the field,” added Phillips.
 

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