Mike Phillips: I’m enjoying competition for Wales jersey
Racing Metro scrum-half relishing competition for places as he aims to be part of squad for next year's Rugby World Cup
Mike Phillips believes competition for places in the Wales squad is healthy even if it means he faces more time warming the bench.
The 32-year-old Racing Metro scrum-half is expected to get the nod to start against Fiji at the Millennium Stadium on Saturday after his in-form Ospreys rival Rhys Webb took the jersey for Saturday’s 33-28 defeat to Australia.
“The competition is healthy, and I am enjoying it,” he said. “You keep driving yourself forward and keep pushing yourself.
“I will always have that competitive streak. It is a big part of my make-up, and it is why I am here, really.
“The World Cup is all of the players’ goals—we all want to be there. It is a massive year of rugby in the lead-up, and we have got to play well every time we have the opportunity for Wales.”
Phillips has been capped 88 times by Wales and a further five with the British and Irish Lions, but he is no longer a shoo-in for the number nine jersey with Warren Gatland spoiled for choice in the position.
Scarlets scrum-half Rhodri Williams was the third scrum-half called up for the Dove Men Series, while last season’s Guinness PRO12 top try-scorer Gareth Davies would have also been in contention had he not picked up an injury with the Scarlets earlier this season.
While his days may be numbered, Phillips insists he is up for the challenge from the crop of youngsters as he looks to make it to a third Rugby World Cup next year.
“I have been fortunate to start a lot for Wales in recent years,” he added.
“Rhys deserved his last chance last week. I thought he played well and he took his try very well.
“I am a competitor. I think people know that. I am a proud man and we all want to play for Wales. It’s a great thing to have competition in the squad.”
Fiji and Wales have a bit of history when it comes to World Cups and Phillips has memories of success and defeat.
The Pacific Islanders stunned Gareth Jenkins’ Wales 38-34 in the pool stages of the 2007 Rugby World Cup, which meant Australia and Fiji went through at Wales’ expense, but revenge came four years later as Wales reached the quarter-finals with a 66-0 win, eventually reaching the semi-finals.
Both sides go into the match on the back of defeats after France thrashed Fiji 40-15, but Phillips—who faced Fiji in both of those World Cup matches—is well aware of their considerable attacking threat, and will be up against Glasgow Warriors’ Fijian livewire Niko Matawalu, who consistently lights up the PRO12 from scrum-half.
“They have the ability to score tries from everywhere,” he said. “We all know they are a very dangerous team.
“Set-piece is key. It is an area where we will be looking to dominate.
“They like an open game, and hopefully we can keep it tight, keep the scoreboard ticking over, be professional and accurate.”