Now leav­ing the den

For­mer Wales and Lions scrum-half de­parts Jebel Ali af­ter just six months

Sport360 - - Rugby | Equestrian - By Matthew Jones @Mat­tJones360 ✉ mat­[email protected]

For­mer Wales and Bri­tish & Ir­ish Lions scrum-half Mike Phillips has left Jebel Ali Drag­ons by mu­tual con­sent af­ter six months in charge of the reign­ing West Asia cham­pi­ons.

The sign­ing of the for­mer Scar­lets, Blues, Ospreys and Rac­ing 92 No9 caused shock­waves in UAE rugby when it was an­nounced in June, with the 36-year-old tak­ing over from an­other fa­mous name in Henry Paul – who left to be an­other for­mer Welsh in­ter­na­tional Kings­ley Jones’ No2 at Canada.

Af­ter de­liv­er­ing the West Asia Premier­ship ti­tle last sea­son – Drag­ons’ maiden tro­phy in four years – they have strug­gled un­der Phillips in 2018/19. They have lost five of their 10 games this sea­son sit fourth in the stand­ings, a dis­tant 19 points off ta­ble-top­ping Bahrain, and were dumped out of the Dubai Sev­ens at the semi-fi­nals by cham­pi­ons Dubai Hur­ri­canes.

Phillips has al­ready been re­placed, for­mer Scot­land Un­der-16 and Cale­do­nia acad­emy coach Colin Philips named his suc­ces­sor. The new man got off to a win­ning start on Fri­day as Drag­ons beat Dubai Ea­gles 54-31 as the Premier­ship sea­son re­sumed.

De­spite their tra­vails, chair­man Stu­art Quinn in­sisted club and head coach parted on am­i­ca­ble terms, re­veal­ing the “Mike Phillips ef­fect” has had a huge im­pact on the club.

“Mike and my­self sat down about what was go­ing to be hap­pen­ing in the sec­ond half of the sea­son,” Quinn told Sport360°.

“We’re still in all four com­pe­ti­tions so we wanted to talk about what we were go­ing to do. But with Mike’s fledg­ling acad­emy, me­dia du­ties and new baby, we both re­alised he wasn’t go­ing to be able to ded­i­cate the time to the role that he felt it de­served.

“With a new-born baby and a lack of avail­abil­ity through­out the up­com­ing Six Na­tions, it was go­ing to make it hard for both of us, so we agreed it was for the best.

“We’ve loved hav­ing him and he was great for us. He wished us the best of luck and we’ve now moved on to Colin, who’s a hands-on type of guy. The club’s dou­bled in size this year with the kids sec­tion tak­ing off. It’s been great all-round hav­ing him. It’s ob­vi­ously sad but to see him go but life moves on and we wish him all the best with his acad­emy.”

Phillips is the joint sixth most capped Welsh­man of all-time with 94 games for the Drag­ons. He rep­re­sented the Lions dur­ing the 2009 and 2013 tours to South Africa and Aus­tralia re­spec­tively.

In Fri­day’s other games, Bahrain’s barn­storm­ing cam­paign con­tin­ued with a ninth win in 10 games, de­feat­ing Dubai Hur­ri­canes 44-19 at The Sev­ens, while sec­ond­placed Abu Dhabi Har­lequins kept in touch with a thrilling 57-31 vic­tory at home to Dubai Ex­iles.

Mike drop: Phillips has left Drag­ons, hav­ing re­placed Henry Paul as the club’s di­rec­tor of rugby in June.

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