Belfast Telegraph

Thursday 24 April 2014

Phillips focused only on Wales

Wales assistant coach Rob Howley believes the 2015 World Cup is a realistic target for scrum-half Mike Phillips, pictured

Wales assistant coach Rob Howley believes the 2015 World Cup is "a realistic target" for Mike Phillips.

Mike Phillips insists his entire focus is on Wales and the autumn Tests as he comes to terms with being sacked by French club Bayonne.

Phillips' spell at the Top 14 outfit reached an abrupt end earlier this week when he was dismissed after allegedly turning up drunk at a players' video analysis session.

The 31-year-old has now instructed his legal team to issue proceedings against Bayonne, while there are no immediate clear suggestions about where his club future might lie.

"I suppose that's up to my agent now. I am in a situation I wasn't expecting to be in, so I'm going to have to deal with it," 77 times-capped scrum-half Phillips said.

"My focus is here (with Wales) now, just purely on training well and performing well and making sure I am up to speed with things. I'm feeling fit and strong, so that is really what I am thinking about.

"Who knows what is going to happen? Me and my agent are going to have numerous meetings, and we will see how things go and see what happens.

"I have been been a professional for more than 10 years and I've experienced different things. I am really focused and just enjoying being back in the (Wales) squad.

"Whenever you put the Welsh jersey on, you've got to perform to your very best. Anything less than that is not good enough. Those are the standards we've set, and it's why we have done reasonably well over the last few years."

Phillips has claimed he learned of his sacking from an interview in a French newspaper on Monday morning, when Bayonne chairman Alain Afflelou described his alleged behaviour as "treason".

Phillips was fined and suspended for 10 days by relegation-threatened Bayonne for an off-field incident last year, and he was briefly banned from the Wales squad in 2011 following a confrontation with a doorman in Cardiff.

Reflecting on the latest developments in his career, he added: "It's just frustrating the way it finished, obviously, but I can't really talk about it for legal reasons.

"It is just a case of moving on. I still have the same hunger as ever."

Wales assistant coach Rob Howley believes the 2015 World Cup is "a realistic target" for Phillips, a Test player on the last two British and Irish Lions tours.

"Looking forward over the next two years, we would like to think Mike Phillips will be available for World Cup 2015," Howley said.

"I think that is a realistic target for Mike, and for that to happen he needs to be playing at a club.

"The important void to fill is for Mike to play rugby. Whether that is in Wales, England or France, that his down to his agent and Mike.

"From our perspective, we want Mike to be playing week in, week out."

Howley followed Wales coach Warren Gatland and captain Sam Warburton in publicly backing Phillips, who has had his share of off-field problems during a career highlighted by several outstanding dislays for Wales and the Lions.

"It is up to Mike to get his own house in order and focus on what he needs to focus on in his preparation over the next nine days," Howley added.

"Mike Phillips is an outstanding player. He has been on two Lions tours, he has got experience and he is vital to our game.

"In saying that, you haven't got a divine right to wear that national jersey. We keep saying that to our players.

"I have communicated with Mike over the last three weeks, like we always do in and out of campaigns. I have got a huge amount of respect for Mike. He is a fantastic player.

"We can only judge him in our own environment. He will continue to perform at the highest level, that's what we expect of Mike.

"You have to act professionally on and off the field, and he has fallen short, hasn't he, on some occasions."

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