Phillips wants to shake off demons

Mike Phillips is hoping to get the chance to exorcise more than a few demons in Brisbane on Saturday when the British & Irish Lions kick-off their Test series against the Qantas Wallabies. [more]

Phillips wants to shake off demons

Mike Phillips is hoping to get the chance to exorcise more than a few demons in Brisbane on Saturday when the British & Irish Lions kick-off their Test series against the Qantas Wallabies.

It is 16 long years since the Lions last won a series and the Welsh scrum half was part of the team that came up agonisingly short against the world champion Springboks in South Africa in 2009. Four years on, he doesn’t want to suffer another near miss.

And the fact that if he gets the call to start he will be battling with arch-rival Will Genia merely heightens the tension and excitement for the Bayonne player. The series will define who is the best scrum half in the world, and the Wallaby No 9 currently holds a 6-0 lead over Phillips in their meetings to date.

In fact, the 80-times capped Phillips (77 with Wales and 3 with the Lions) has yet to post a win over the Aussies in an illustrious career that already boasts two Grand Slams, a third 6 Nations title and a Test win with the Lions in Johannesburg. But after nine successive defeats against the men in gold, Saturday is the chance to break his duck.

“Will is a top player who has played well for a number of years. He certainly makes them tick and it is going to b a good battle – and one I am looking forward to if I am given the chance,” said Phillips, who made his second start of the 2013 tour against the Waratahs in Sydney yesterday.

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“I’ve played well for the last four or five years and I am fairly comfortable with where I am and with my performances. I just have to go out there and deliver again – that’s all I am concentrating on doing and being a part of a winning team this time.

“There are similar feelings around the squad. We have bonded well and we are comfortable with each other. We have all got on really well off the field.

“The business end of the tour is coming up and we all know we are going to be judged on that. That is what we are concentrating and focussing on and you can sense the boys are really gearing up for the forthcoming Test.”

Phillips’ played four times against the Wallabies for Wales last year and lost by eight, two, one and two points respectively. But not even that agony compares with the feelings of losing to the Springboks in Durban and Pretoria in the opening two Tests of the 2009 tour.

It ended up 26-21 in favour of the home side on Phillips’s Lions Test debut, with the Lions conceding 13 points in almost as many minutes at the start of the game, and then it was 28-25 a week later at altitude in Loftus Versveld. There are 11 players on this tour who played in South Africa and there is a resolve to put things right.

“Four years ago we just came up short in the first Test and that put us on the back foot in the series. We let the South Africans get an easy score against us, and take a couple of easy penalties at scrum time,” recalled Phillips.

“We were on the back foot from the start. We came back in the second half and another 10 minutes we would have beaten them, but that is neither here nor there.

“It would be nice to put those demons to bed and start off with a big win. We have got to go at them because they won’t have played a Test match before the game.

“We’ve got to go out there, have a big opening 20 minutes and dominate every aspect of the game if we are going to win. It’s going to be extremely tough as Australia are the second best team in the world, have skilful players throughout their side and can cut you from anywhere on the field.

“But the talent in this Lions group is immense. The Leinster players have won three Heineken Cups since the last tour and the Welsh boys have won the Grand Slam and the championship – everyone has developed, moved on and got better and more experienced.

“Then we have legends of the game in Brian O’Driscoll and Paul O’Connell to add their influence. We have got a good squad, but we have to make sure it is a winning squad – we need to make this tour really special and to do that we must win down here.”
 

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