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Last Updated: Thursday, 3 November 2005, 12:18 GMT
Phillips passes Holmes' approval
Mike Phillips
Mike Phillips fully deserves the chance to make the Wales scrum-half jersey his own, according to Terry Holmes.

Comparisons between Holmes, one of the great Welsh number nines, and the 23-year-old have been drawn because of Phillips' 6ft 2in height.

The Cardiff Blue is a surprise choice to start at scrum-half for Wales against New Zealand on Saturday.

But Holmes says the former Scarlet has blossomed after moving to the Arms Park for regular rugby this season.

"There are similarities in size and physique and he's got a great chance to go out and prove himself at the weekend," Holmes told BBC Wales.

"He'll be helped by having Stephen Jones outside him at fly-half - he's so experienced and he'll help Mike through the game."

It's when we haven't got the ball that will be crucial
Terry Holmes

Phillips gets his chance because of injury to Dwayne Peel, the Lions and Scarlets scrum-half whose presence limited Phillips' game time at Stradey Park.

But the Blues number nine has also got Wales coach Mike Ruddock's nod ahead of Gareth Cooper, who also toured with the Lions to New Zealand.

"I think Gareth has struggled since coming back from the Lions with injury, I don't think he was given a fair chance on that tour," Holmes added.

"Mike is the player in form and Mike Ruddock has fairly picked players in form."

Phillips, who has six caps to his name, admits he was surprised to learn of his selection for such a high-profile match.

His three previous starts have come against Canada, USA and Romania.

Terry Holmes tackles England's Clive Woodward in their playing days
Terry Holmes tackles England's Clive Woodward in their playing days

"It did come as a bit of a shock and it's a dream come true, but I've got to be confident now that I'm selected and play the way I've been playing all season," Phillips said.

"It's my first chance of playing against a big team, but this season I've been playing regularly against better players in the Heineken Cup and it's given me a lot more confidence."

Holmes, meanwhile, believes that whoever pulls on the red shirt on Saturday will be up to the test, but that they must be focussed on disrupting the All Blacks' gameplan.

"It's a testimony to Wales that whichever players we field, when we've got the ball everyone is comfortable in playing the Wales way," Holmes said.

"It's when we haven't got the ball that will be crucial - we need to attack their set piece, slow down their ball and be disciplined.

"We must break up their half-back link between Byron Kelleher and Dan Carter - which the Lions didn't do - and not give Carter all the freedom.

"If we don't do that we could be in a lot of trouble."


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