We felt we needed to change, admits Gatland

Wales boss Warren Gatland pulled no punches after dropping scrum-half star Mike Phillips for tomorrow’s crunch RBS 6 Nations clash against France in Cardiff

David Davies/PA Wire Mike Phillips
Mike Phillips

Phillips (pictured left), who has won 82 caps, made his international debut in 2003 and was the British and Irish Lions Test number nine against Australia last summer, will be on the bench for a game Wales must win to keep alive their title hopes.

Phillips makes way for full Test debutant Rhys Webb following Wales’ 26-3 drubbing by Ireland 11 days ago, while wing George North moves to outside centre, Liam Williams wears the number 11 shirt and fit-again lock Luke Charteris replaces Andrew Coombs.

“We just felt the team needed a change,” Gatland said. “We weren’t happy with Mike’s performance against Ireland, and we just felt it was an opportunity for Rhys Webb.”

There are many who will feel that double Grand Slam winner Phillips has been made a fall guy for Wales’ heaviest Six Nations loss since 2006. Others, though, will point to him being largely ineffective during the current Six Nations campaign and that an in-form Webb, whose previous Wales appearances have all been as a replacement, deserves his chance.

“For us, it is a chance to give someone else an opportunity, someone who is different to Mike as a player,” Gatland added.

“We don’t want him (Webb) to be the same as Mike Phillips. We want him to be what Rhys Webb is good at doing.

“I’ve spoken to him earlier in the campaign about not going to try and emulate Mike. He has got to be his own man and play to his own strengths.”

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.

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