Easterby backs young nines

Date published: January 9 2014

Scarlets boss Simon Easterby has backed his young scrum-halves to handle the challenge of going head-to-head with Mike Phillips.

Scarlets boss Simon Easterby has backed his of young scrum-halves to handle the challenge of going head-to-head with Mike Phillips.

The Wales and British and Irish Lions number nine is likely to start for new side Racing Metro as they welcome the Scarlets to Stade Yves-du-Manoir on Friday in a Heineken Cup pool clash.

Having been infamously dsimissed from Bayonne, Phillips was recruited by the big-spending Parisians in December, and looks set to make his home debut against Easterby's men.

And the coach believes both Rhodri Williams and Gareth Davies will impress against the physically-formidable Phillips, doing their own chances of international recognition no harm in the process.

“Rhodri has been in the Wales squad already and I definitely think Gareth was knocking on the door before he got injured,” Easterby told the South Wales Evening Post.

“Rhodri took his chance and that pushed him into the November Tests squad, which was the right thing to do because he was the form nine playing in Wales.

“Gareth would feel disappointed he missed out on that opportunity and he will be looking forward to try to match up against a guy that currently has hold of the Wales number nine jersey.”

31-year-old Phillips was a boyhood Llanelli fan, and turned out for the club 65 times after making his debut aged just 19.

“Growing up as a kid I always supported the Scarlets, even though the club was called Llanelli at the time, and it's where I got my start in professional rugby. I had two years in the Llanelli Under-21s and then three seasons in the first team before moving to Cardiff,” said Phillips.

“Playing my first home game for Racing against my first professional club has a nice ring to it.

“Our last game at home was superb – a great win against Toulon,” added Phillips.

“At home again this weekend it is crucial we retain that momentum. Teams who come to play us have to know that they are in for a fight, and that they will have to scrap for every point.

“The first message to my Racing team-mates will be to beware of the Scarlets. Over the years, they have always had dangerous backs, and when I followed them as a kid they were always an exciting team to watch.”