Jebel Ali Dragons announce former Wales and British & Irish Lions star Mike Phillips as new director of rugby

Matt Jones 11/06/2018
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West Asia champions Jebel Ali Dragons have announced the sensational appointment of former Wales and British & Irish Lions scrum-half Mike Phillips as their new director of rugby.

Phillips, who is the joint sixth most capped Welshman of all-time with 94 caps for the Dragons, only retired in 2017 and quickly moved out to the UAE, where he established his Mike Phillips Rugby Academy alongside Just Play in December.

The 35-year-old former scrum-half replaces another former professional player at Dragons, after ex-New Zealand league and England union international Henry Paul left Dragons to take up an assistant coaching role with Canada last month after two years with Jebel Ali.

Paul returned Dragons to prominence in that time; the club winning the West Asia Premiership last season to pick up a coveted first piece of silverware in four seasons.

And Phillips is keen for Dragons to build upon the foundations laid by Paul and push on under his guidance.

“I’m so delighted to join the current leading team in the UAE, Jebel Ali Dragons,” said Phillips.

“I can’t wait to add the passion and energy I showed in my playing career now in my new role as director of rugby and working with a very experienced and successful coaching team.

“Henry Paul did such a great job in moving the team forward, and I hope to push it further along with what I’ve learned throughout my career.”

Mike Phillips (2nd l) pictured in Dubai with (from l) Dragons players James Love, skipper Ross Samson and Matt Richards.

Mike Phillips (2nd l) pictured in Dubai with (from l) Dragons players James Love, skipper Ross Samson and Matt Richards.

Phillips earned a reputation for being a fearsome competitor during his playing days, shining as a scrum-half – Wales’ most capped number nine after surpassing Dwayne Peel – despite being unusually tall for the position (6ft 4in).

He scored nine tries in the hallowed red jersey and also earned five Lions caps on tours to South Africa in 2009 and Australia in 2013.

He played in the 2007 and 2011 Rugby World Cups for Wales and was at nine for Wales’ 2008 and 2012 Grand Slam-winning Six Nations campaigns as well as the side which retained the championship in 2013.

Dragons chairman Stuart Quinn is certain Phillips can raise the bar set for the club by Paul.

“As a club we have decided that investing in the very best coaching options available to us is the only way to succeed and achieve sustainability,” he said.

“We believe Mike will take the platform set by the previous DoR and raise the quality once again. The standard of rugby is leaping forward in the region and we think that it’s our responsibility to ensure the coaching is always ahead of that.

“We have a product that we offer to over 120 senior players. We need to make sure it’s the best product in West Asia and the UAE.

“Mike brings his wealth of knowledge to the current West Asia champions. Working alongside last year’s coaching team of Andrew Buist and Jonny Macdonald, Mike will be looking to build on a club that is set to raise the bar higher once again.

“As a player that has only just retired, he brings the most recent and relevant rugby knowledge to the club. The appointment along with the continued support of Dragons’ sponsors, JA Hotels and Hesco, positions the team well for the upcoming season.”

Since moving to the Emirates, Phillips has also appeared as a rugby pundit for beIN Sports.

To learn more about Phillips’ academy, visit www.mikephillipsacademy.com

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Former England head coach Clive Woodward says "something is not right" in the Red Rose camp

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Former England head coach Clive Woodward has branded the Red Rose’s 2018 a horror show.

Woodward, whose team were crowned world champions in 2003, said Eddie Jones‘ side have not progressed at the same rate as their rivals.

England conceded five tries in a 42-39 defeat by South Africa on Saturday – a fourth consecutive Test defeat.

It had all started so well for England as they opened up a 24-3 lead inside 18 minutes, but the Springboks rallied to score four tries to lead 29-27 at the interval.

Woodward said the first 20 minutes of Saturday’s match “was some of the best rugby I have ever seen England play”.

But Jones’ side faded badly – and Springboks scrum-half Faf de Klerk said the hosts always intended to prey on England’s vulnerabilities at altitude.

“Something is not right because they are normally very good defensively,” said Woodward on BBC Radio 5 live.

“The bubble has burst and teams have recognised that the way to beat England is by playing an all-out fast game.”

Defeat in Johannesburg follows a disappointing Six Nations campaign during which England lost three of their five matches and conceded their title to Ireland.

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Wales' Rhys Patchell expecting Argentina backlash to first Test defeat

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Rhys Patchell has warned Wales to brace themselves for a “big response” from Argentina when the two teams meet again in next weeekend’s second Test in Santa Fe.

Warren Gatland‘s side moved 1-0 up in the two-match series with an impressive 23-10 victory over the Pumas at San Juan’s Estadio del Bicentenario.

Flanker James Davies stood out with a man-of-the-match display but as good as Wales were, the hosts failed to fire a shot in an underwhelming performance.

Patchell believes it will be a different story next Saturday, however.

“I’d imagine Argentina are going to come with a big response next week,” said the Wales fly-half, who orchestrated his back line well and kicked 10 points.

“We played well as a team and I think Argentina were probably taken aback by the intensity our young pack showed.

Wales team

“The boys dug in, but as happy and proud as we are of the performance, there is still plenty to work on. We’re delighted to come out with what is a very good result.”

Davies scored Wales’ first try on his second Test start and George North’s effort meant Gatland’s side went to the break 17-3 up. They never relinquished that lead.

Patchell added an early second-half penalty before being replaced by Gareth Anscombe and he was at pains to praise the pack in front of him for his team’s success.

Against some giant Pumas forwards, inexperienced Wales youngsters Elliot Dee, Dillon Lewis and Adam Beard all stepped up to the plate in impressive fashion.

“The boys went well. The forwards certainly did in the first 20 minutes and when they do that, it makes things a lot easier for us as backs,” Patchell added.

“Defensively we worked really, really hard and that was something we talked about during the week.

“It was a great atmosphere, fantastic. We knew it would be white hot with the crowd right on top of us and they didn’t disappoint, but that’s why you play international Rugby, to feature in front of such crowds. This was a good day.”

Wales were tough and obdurate in defence and they will now hope to seal their first Test series victory in Argentina since 1999.

Hadleigh Parkes

After Anscombe started the 22-20 victory over South Africa in Washington, it was Patchell’s chance to begin against the Pumas. He hopes to hold on to the starting 10 shirt in Santa Fe.

Wales’ only slight injury concern for that game is Davies who has a hip knock.

“All I want to do is reward the team and keep them moving forward as that’s the role and responsibility that comes with playing 10,” Patchell said.

“The coaches will pick whoever they feel will do the best job for the team. On the whole I thought my performance was OK, but all I can concentrate on is being better next week than I was this.

“I need to work hard in training in the next few days and whatever happens, happens.

“We’ve talked about working together, having pride in our defence, and making it something that’s both critical to us and something we pride ourselves on.

“The forwards worked well and Hadleigh Parkes and Scott Williams led the line speed. We’ll be happy on the whole when we look at the video.”

Provided by Press Association Sport

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