Belfast Telegraph

Wednesday 27 August 2014

Phillips and Hook secure early release

Mike Phillips

Wales have received formal confirmation that Mike Phillips and James Hook will be released by their French clubs for the start of preparations to face the Barbarians and Australia.

On Monday caretaker coach Rob Howley named Bayonne scrum-half Phillips and Perpignan fly-half Hook in a 38-man training squad for the Six Nations champions' summer itinerary, which includes a June 2 meeting with the Baa-Baas and three Tests Down Under.

The squad are set to meet up on May 21, with the exception of the Ospreys' contingent who will be preparing for the RaboDirect Pro12 final against Leinster.

Bayonne and Perpignan were not obligated to release Phillips and Hook by that date as it falls outside the International Rugby Board's formal date of release for the summer Tests.

But the Welsh Rugby Union have been notified by their French counterparts that the players will be available for the start of Wales' training schedule as they target a first Test win against the Wallabies on Australian soil since 1969.

And Howley praised the move by the French federation, saying: "This is fantastic news for us as it means Mike and James will be fully involved in the complete preparation programme we have in place.

"They are both experienced international players but it is still a huge advantage to have them working within our environment from day one.

"We are extremely grateful to the French Rugby Union and the individual clubs involved for taking this step.

"It is a gesture which will undoubtedly benefit the players and I know they will want to thank their individual clubs for helping them fulfil their international commitments with Wales.

"It is an example of northern hemisphere rugby working in unity for the benefit of our players and the game in general."

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