Phillips: Been there, done that, Wales have the knack
WALES’ greater experience could be the key to winning today’s Six Nations title deciding showdown with England at the Millennium Stadium, says record-breaker Mike Phillips.
The Bayonne No 9 will become his country’s most capped scrum-half this evening when he overtakes old rival Dwayne Peel by playing in his 77th Test.
He, in many ways, typifies this Wales side’s grizzled maturity born out of winning Grand Slams and appearing in a World Cup semi-final.
And that worldliness is reflected when you tot up the number of caps between the two – Wales 647 England 290.
The smart money is on the visitors claiming their first Grand Slam since 2003, the bookies offering 8/11 on England with Wales at 6/5.
You could get 3/1 on Wales retaining the Six Nations by beating their fiercest rivals with a seven-point margin and staying ahead in overall tournament try-count.
But for Phillips, it is all about getting the victory over a team he admires greatly.
“We’ve just got to go out there and win the game, end of story,” he said. “They are a great side, they’ve beaten New Zealand and had a great run. Beating them by one point would be a great achievement. I think they are a fantastic rugby side.
“Hopefully, if we can perform to our best, then who knows what will unfold.
“We have just got to concentrate on winning the game.
“We’ve got a lot of caps, we’ve played in big games in recent seasons – a World Cup semi-final, Grand Slam games – and we will look to bring that to the fore.”
Phillips, who made his Test debut a decade ago as a 20-year-old, is also encouraged by Wales’ recent form which has seen them recover from an opening tournament home defeat to Ireland, going on a run of three successive wins away over France, Italy and Scotland.
“It would be massive if everything went our way this weekend, especially after that first half against Ireland (Wales trailed 30-3 early in the second half). The players have bounced back extremely well,” Phillips said.
“To be here in this position is great, but we’ve got to go that one more step now.
“It was a bit of a freak 20 minutes against Ireland and I think it shocked us, but to bounce back from that in Paris (a week later) and win was a great achievement.
“Traditionally in the Six Nations we are quite slow starters – I don’t know why that is – but we end up finishing really strongly in every series we play in.
“Sometimes, we just need a kick up the backside in the first couple of games. We have done really well since the Ireland game.”
Should Wales win they will square the series in head-to-heads with England, the visitors having 56 victories to the hosts’ 55 with 12 games drawn in the 123 matches played since 1881.
And if Wales do win the title, it will be for the first time since 1979 when they hammered England 27-3 in Cardiff to also secure the Triple Crown.