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We have to be strong - Phillips

Mike Phillips believes Wales have to show mental strength and toughness when they begin preparations for their appointment with world champions New Zealand.

Wales, despite going into battle as World Cup semi-finalists and RBS Six Nations champions, will arrive at the Millennium Stadium next Saturday as rank outsiders. While the All Blacks breezed past Scotland and Italy, scoring 93 points and 11 tries, injury-ravaged Wales are reeling from home defeats against Argentina and Samoa.

"I don't want to offer excuses because we are bigger than that," scrum-half Phillips said. "We know we are going to get a lot of flak now, but it's important that we show we can stand up to people. We have to be strong."

Phillips added: "It is quite a young group and a lot of them wouldn't have experienced something like this, but the senior players have, and we can bounce back. We've done it in the past and we can do it again.

"We have had a lot of injuries, which has been unfortunate, but we can't look for excuses. These things make you stronger and we have to be positive and learn from this."

Samoa's 26-19 success means Wales are without a win in five Tests since they beat the Barbarians on June 2. One more defeat would make it their longest losing run for 10 years.

They will face the All Blacks without injured forwards Adam Jones, Alun-Wyn Jones and Dan Lydiate, while hookers Richard Hibbard (shoulder) and Matthew Rees (calf) are also on the casualty list, together with fly-half Dan Biggar.

Phillips believes the Wales squad owe their coaching staff - bolstered this week by boss Warren Gatland's return from preparatory British and Irish Lions business - and supporters a performance.

New Zealand and Australia, fresh from defeating England at Twickenham on Saturday, threaten an autumn whitewash for Wales, while their opening Six Nations fixture against Ireland is just 11 weeks away.

"We have a great management team," Phillips said. "All the players respect them and want to play well for them and the public. It's disappointing that we have let a lot of people down. Next Saturday is a chance to put some pride back in the jersey, and we have to do that. We have to show people that we are proud of the jersey."


From Belfast Telegraph