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Page last updated at 19:11 GMT, Thursday, 10 March 2011

Critics of Mike Phillips backed by Rob Howley

Six Nations: WALES v IRELAND
Venue: Millennium Stadium, Cardiff Date: Sat, 12 March Kick-off: 1700 GMT
Coverage: Watch live on BBC One Wales, BBC One HD and online from 1635-1900; Listen on BBC Radio Wales, BBC Radio Cymru & BBC Radio 5 Live; Text commentary on BBC Sport website and mobiles

Mike Phillps
Phillips won the first of his caps against Romania in 2003

Wales assistant coach Rob Howley admits some of the criticism of scrum-half Mike Phillips has been warranted.

Phillips wins his 50th cap against Ireland on Saturday but has not hit top form during the Six Nations.

And Howley, a former British and Irish Lions scrum-half, is hoping Phillips regains some lost form on Saturday.

"I think Mike has come under a fair amount of criticism over the last couple of games and in some respects rightly so," said Howley.

"We want players to go on the field and make decisions.

"Mike is a quality player, but sometimes when it is not happening for you, you try to force the issue, [but] I think you'll see a different Mike Phillips [on Saturday]."

Phillips will be under pressure against Ireland, not least from the fact that his fellow Lion Dwayne Peel is back on the replacements bench after being ruled out of the Scotland and Italy games through injury.

And Howley suggested that Peel, who appeared as Phillips' 69th-minute replacement in the opening 26-19 defeat by England, will again play a part on Saturday.

"Dwayne played against Leicester [for Sale Sharks] in the week of the Scotland game.

"[Dwayne is an] old head, hopefully he won't me saying that, but he brings a different dimension as well and I'm sure he will be used on Saturday."

The time has just flown really and 50 is something really special and something I'm really proud of

Mike Phillips

The Phillips critics would suggest that Peel's service is crisper and more direct from scrum and breakdown.

But Phillips still has the backing of Wales coach Warren Gatland as he starts the fourth consecutive Six Nations match.

The player is also delighted at the prospect of reaching 50 caps on Saturday.

"You know as a kid growing up in Wales, you watch Wales and it seems a million miles away - the Welsh team and the set-up and all that," recalled Phillips.

"It seemed to happen overnight going to Llanelli and then having the opportunity to have the first cap was just a dream come true.

"The time has just flown really and 50 is something really special and something I'm really proud of."

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