The Wales head coach admitted the Racing Metro scrum-half’s competitiveness can be a weakness and he is looking for something different from Ospreys’ Rhys Webb, who takes Phillips’ place.
We don’t want Rhys Webb to be the same as Mike Phillips
“We weren’t happy with Mike’s performance against Ireland and we think it’s a big opportunity for Rhys,” Gatland said.
“He got a bit confrontational with Conor Murray and this is an opportunity for him to have a think about that.
“It’s also important to give somebody else the chance to stake a claim in that position. Mike always responds well to a challenge.
“One of his attributes is his competitiveness and that’s probably a weakness for him too.”
Gatland had been urged by former Wales stars and fans to axe half-back pairing Phillips and Rhys Priestland for the must-win encounter against unbeaten France.
However, the New Zealander has opted to keep faith with the Scarlets outside-half with Webb promoted after impressing for the Ospreys on Sunday.
“We don’t want Rhys Webb to be the same as Mike Phillips. I want him to do what he’s good at,” Gatland added.
“He’s got a good kicking game and he’s good at bringing in runners around the fringes.”
Gatland also resisted making sweeping changes to his forwards after the Dublin debacle and players have been spoken to about their level of performance.
“We spoke after the Ireland game and decided to make a change at nine and we’ve had some really honest discussions with other players,” Gatland said.
“They know they have to redeem themselves even though they’ve been good for us in the past.
“We have to make sure that we look at the other team beyond the way they have played previously. Ireland stopped us playing and I take my hat off to the way they did that.
“They competed hard at the breakdown and it was very effective. Looking at France, we have to look beyond their last two games and realise they will be wary of the firepower we have and will try to stop us playing. We have to be aware of that.”
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