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Page last updated at 18:33 GMT, Thursday, 29 April 2010 19:33 UK

Italy beckons for defence coach Rowland Phillips

By Gareth Roberts

Rowland Phillips
Rowland Phillips was Wales defence coach during

Former Wales defence coach Rowland Phillips is poised to join one of two Italian teams preparing to enter the Magners League next season.

The ex-Wales dual-code international will be defence coach at new Viadana-based club Aironi.

They and Treviso will enter the Magners League next season.

"It'll be confirmed by the end of the week, hopefully. But it will be defence coach out in Viadana," Phillips told BBC Wales' Scrum V programme.

Ex-Ospreys assistant coach Phillips coached Neath before and after a 2006-7 stint with Wales and has been at Ebbw Vale this season.

Neath won three successive Welsh Premiership titles under Phillips' guidance before he was brought into Gareth Jenkins' coaching team ahead of the 2007 Rugby World Cup.

We'll be working hard to give Aironi a fighting chance on the field

Aironi-bound defence coach Rowland Phillips

Phillips became defence coach at the Steelmen in November and took over as head coach in February only to see them relegated at the end of the season.

Aironi - Italian for Herons - have been formed to play in the Celtic competition and while based at Viadana, are a collaboration between clubs that also include Gran Parma, Rugby Parma, Colorno, Noceto, Reggio Emilia, Modena and Mantova.

They will largely be based at the 5,000 capacity Stadio Luigi Zaffanella in Viadana and play bigger games in nearby Reggio Emilia at the near-30,000 capacity Stadio Giglio.

Phillips' new club have already signed ex-Gloucester and ex-Italy captain and lock Marco Bortolami on a three-year deal while Bayonne's Italian international prop Salvatore Perugini is also due to return to his homeland with the new team.

Reports have also linked Saracens hooker Fabio Ongaro with Aironi, who are also said to have made approaches to Stade Francais' Italian back-row star Sergio Parisse and Clermont Auvergne centre Gonzalo Canale.

Phillips added: "It will be a little bit of a change in lifestyle, but a great opportunity.

"They contacted Jono Stuart who's my agent. I think it was because I'd had experience in the Magners before with the Ospreys.

"They contacted me. I've been over there for a look and it hasn't changed since I played there with Neath a few years back.

"There will be a lot of Italian internationals in the squad. There's also the fact that coming into the Magners League opens up the possibility to sign some players back from other clubs, but there's about 12 overseas players there, including Gavin Quinnell.

"It's difficult to predict how they will perform. They are very ambitious as a club and the president is, as every other president is abroad, very ambitious.

"I think the first season will be a case of suck it and see and we'll be working hard to give them a fighting chance on the field."

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see also
Two Italian teams to join Magners
08 Mar 10 |  Rugby Union
Neath re-shuffle coaching staff
03 Jul 08 |  Ospreys
Wales name extended coaching team
17 Oct 06 |  Welsh
Wales land Phillips for Pumas job
22 May 06 |  Welsh

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