Good for a gag, but the truth is Mike really was world class
MIKE Phillips is one of my best mates and the best scrum-half I played with. The thing with Mike is that he was a scrum-half, but in some ways he was an extra forward too. That had its advantages! He was physical, vocal, and everyone in the pack respected him, even though I had to cover his arse when he was yellow carded a few times!
He had a great career with Wales, but off the field he was someone you wanted in your camp. He has an infectious personality, a dry sense of humour, and he is well liked by everyone.
On the 2009 Lions tour, I thought he was our best player. Mike always seemed to play his best rugby against the best teams in the world and on that trip, the way South Africa played the game suited him down to the ground. Fourie du Preez and Schalk Burger certainly got him ticking!
I played a lot of rugby with Mike for both the Ospreys and Wales and it meant we spent a lot of time together. He was always great to go for a beer or a coffee with and everyone knows how much fun he is away from rugby.
There are so many stories I have about Mike, only some are printable! I think everyone knows the one about when we were flying to an away game with Wales and the air stewardess asked Mike if he was in business or economy class. Mike’s reply that he was “world-class” has gone down in Welsh rugby folklore and the fact his sporting idol is George Best tells you everything you need to know about him.
I also remember Mike complaining at the 2011 World Cup he had a bad back. He was telling the physios and anyone who would listen that his back had gone until finally someone asked what was up. “My back’s gone from carrying the rest of the team through this tournament,” was Mike’s response. It brought the house down, but I’m not sure Warren Gatland was too impressed!
The stewardess story gets a few laughs now, but Mike really was world-class on the field. He had a great pass, could mix it physically, and will be remembered as one of Wales’ best No. 9s. I wish him all the best and I’m sure this isn’t the last we’ve seen of him in rugby.