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Wales v Australia: Phillips prepared for pressure

Mike Phillips is ready to take up the challenge thrown down by Wales coach Warren Gatland in today's autumn Test series opener against Australia.

The Ospreys scrum-half wins his 43rd cap, having carved a reputation among the best number nines in world rugby.

But if he had any doubt about what is required from him this weekend, then Gatland has offered a reminder.

“Richie Rees has been putting pressure on Mike with some dynamic performances for the Cardiff Blues,” said Gatland.

“So it's a big game for Mike. We are looking for him to be physical and to really lead the way.”

Given that Wales are minus a quartet of influential players through injury — Lee Byrne, Leigh Halfpenny, Jonathan Davies and Ryan Jones — there is perhaps more onus than usual on Phillips to deliver.

“There is pressure on everyone when you are wearing the Wales jersey,” said the 2009 Lions Test scrum-half.

“I put pressure on myself as well to perform — I always have done over the years.

“You always want to produce your best and that is what I will be looking to do on Saturday. I can't wait to get out there.”

Gatland admitted earlier this week that the Wales squad are still hurting from last November's 33-12 defeat against Australia.

It remains the biggest home loss of Gatland's reign, but Australia have got even better since then, highlighted through them beating New Zealand in Hong Kong last Saturday.

“It's a very big challenge for us, but it is what you want as a player,” added Phillips.

“You want to play against the best and to prove yourself. We are excited to get out there and take them on.

“They were superb against the All Blacks, full credit to them. Attacking-wise, they are very dangerous.”

Despite Wales' lack of success against Tri Nations opposition — the record currently stands at one win from 10 under Gatland — they have lost just two of the last five home games against Australia.

And Phillips claimed: “I think we are closing the gap, I think we are improving. We've got to be positive.

“Our squad seems to be getting stronger and stronger and we are really going into these games expecting to win.

“Every player wearing the Wales shirt goes out there wanting to win. We are capable of beating anyone on our day.

“As long as we go out there and give everything we've got, who knows what can happen.

“Physicality-wise, I think we've improved in the last couple of years.

“We've got some really big ball-carriers now, the likes of Bradley Davies and Matthew Rees, who are taking it on for the team.

“It's a massive part of the game these days.”

Belfast Telegraph