Salisbury JournalWebb replaces Phillips for Wales (From Salisbury Journal)

If you have a story call our newsdesk on 01722 426511 or email us. To advertise call 01722 426500.

National Sport News RSS Feed

Webb replaces Phillips for Wales

Salisbury Journal: Mike Phillips has not been named in the starting line-up to face France Mike Phillips has not been named in the starting line-up to face France

Wales scrum-half Mike Phillips has been relegated to the bench for Friday's RBS 6 Nations clash against France in Cardiff.

Phillips, who has won 82 caps and was the British and Irish Lions Test number nine in Australia last year, makes way for Rhys Webb, who makes his first Wales start.

As expected, George North moves from wing to centre, where he will partner Jamie Roberts, while Liam Williams takes North's number 11 shirt.

One other change from the side crushed 26-3 by Ireland last time out sees fit-again lock Luke Charteris return instead of Andrew Coombs.

Charteris was sidelined from the Dublin trip due to hamstring trouble, but his comeback should strengthen a Wales lineout that performed poorly at the Aviva Stadium.

Phillips, who has been a mainstay of the Wales team for several seasons and is a double Grand Slam winner, pays the price for an ineffective start to the current Six Nations campaign.

But it still represents a bold selection call by Wales head coach Warren Gatland, despite Webb's impressive form in Ospreys colours.

North, whose previous 37 caps were all won as a starting wing, answers a midfield injury SOS.

Gatland is without the services of Scott Williams, Jonathan Davies and Ashley Beck because of injuries, so he faced an apparent choice between North and James Hook to feature alongside Roberts, but Hook remains on the bench.

And it had been thought Gatland might tinker with the back row, handing Justin Tipuric a start and moving skipper Sam Warburton from openside to blindside flanker, but he has retained the starting trio of Dan Lydiate, Warburton and Taulupe Faletau that was on duty in Dublin.

"Friday is a massive game for us," Gatland said.

"As a squad, we have a huge amount of experience in this tournament, and we will be calling on that this week.

"'We see the game as a huge opportunity for us to put things right.

"Luke (Charteris) has been working really hard over the past couple of weeks, and it's a big boost for us that he is back.

"I thought Rhys (Webb) played excellently for the Ospreys at the weekend, and he comes in and gives us a different dimension. It's a great opportunity for him.

"George (North) moves into the midfield, and he brings great footwork to the role. His partnership with Jamie will be important as we look to stop the directness of France and Mathieu Bastareaud."

The Ireland reversal - Wales' heaviest in the Six Nations since 2006 - dropped them to fourth in the table.

And they must beat France to keep alive any realistic hope of challenging for an unprecedented Six Nations title hat-trick.

France, meanwhile, will arrive in Cardiff following victories over England and Italy, while they have suffered just two defeats from seven previous Millennium Stadium visits in the Six Nations.

Asked about Phillips' omission at his team announcement press conference on Wednesday, Gatland added: "We just felt the team needed a change.

"We weren't happy with Mike's performance against Ireland, and we just felt it was an opportunity for Rhys.

"He (Phillips) probably just got a little bit confrontational with one-on-one with Conor Murray.

"He was yellow carded as well towards the end of the game. It is probably an opportunity for him to reflect on his performance, which is why we have put him on the bench and given Rhys a chance.

"It is important we give someone else an opportunity in that position to stake a claim, and also give us some depth in that role as well.

"He (Phillips) always responds well to a challenge."

click2find

About cookies

We want you to enjoy your visit to our website. That's why we use cookies to enhance your experience. By staying on our website you agree to our use of cookies. Find out more about the cookies we use.

I agree