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Gatland drops Phillips for Six Nations clash with France

by Richard Morgan

Warren Gatland has made three changes to his Wales team to take on France at the Millennium Stadium on Friday night.

The coach has shown himself to be not afraid of dropping a famous face - with Mike Phillips cut from the side that was heavily beaten by Ireland last time out.

It is a game Wales need to win to keep alive their hopes of clinching the Six Nations title for an historic third time in succession.

Gatland: Rhys Webb 'gives us a different dimension'

Rhys Webb will make his first start for Wales against France, having been chosen ahead of long-term first-choice scrum half Mike Phillips.

25-year-old Webb was in fine form as the Ospreys thrashed Treviso 75-7 on Sunday.

Wales head coach Warren Gatland said: "I thought Rhys played excellently for the Ospreys at the weekend and he comes in and gives us a different dimension, and it's a great opportunity for him."

Rhys Webb will win his fifth Wales cap against France at the Millennium Stadium. Credit: PA

Phillips has won 82 international caps, and was the first-choice scrum half for the Lions in Australia last summer, but was criticised in the media for his performance as Wales were heavily beaten by Ireland.

After defeat against Ireland, Wales need to beat France to stay in with a chance of winning a third Six Nations title in a row.

"Friday is a massive game for us", Gatland said. "As a squad we have a huge amount of experience in this tournament and we will be calling on that this weekend."

"We see the game as a huge opportunity for us to put things right."

"George [North] moves into the midfield and he brings great footwork to the role and we were impressed when he went there against Australia in the autumn. His partnership with Jamie will be important as we look to stop the directness of France and Mathieu Bastareaud."

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Full Wales team to face France

Wales head coach Warren Gatland has made three changes to the team which lost 26-3 to Ireland.

Sam Warburton captains Wales once again.

Wales team: Leigh Halfpenny; Alex Cuthbert, George North, Jamie Roberts, Liam Williams; Rhys Priestland, Rhys Webb; Gethin Jenkins, Richard Hibbard, Adam Jones; Luke Charteris, Alun Wyn Jones; Dan Lydiate, Sam Warburton (c), Taulupe Faletau.

Wales replacements: Ken Owens, Paul James, Rhodri Jones, Jake Ball, Justin Tipuric; Mike Phillips, Dan Biggar, James Hook.

Mike Phillips dropped by Wales for France clash

Mike Phillips has been dropped by Wales for their Six Nations clash with France at the Millennium Stadium on Friday night.

The Ospreys' Rhys Webb will start at scrum half, with Phillips on the bench.

Mike Phillips was criticised for his performance against Ireland. Credit: PA

It is one of three changes to the side which lost 26-3 to Ireland.

Liam Williams is on the wing, with George North taking the injured Scott Williams' position at outside centre.

Luke Charteris returns from injury to take Andrew Coombs' place in the second row.

George North could start at centre against France

George North could start at centre for Wales against France, with Warren Gatland facing a midfield injury crisis.

Scott Williams, Jonathan Davies and Ashley Beck are all unavailable, leaving Gatland the choice between the versatile James Hook and North - usually a winger - to partner Jamie Roberts.

George North played on the wing against Ireland - but could be at centre against France. Credit: PA

Roberts has said: "George is a fantastic player. His physical attributes are incredible, and he is a 17-stone Shane Williams.

"His turn of pace is amazing, and his agility is frightening. He is a world-class talent and we just need to make sure we get him in space and get the ball in his hands."

Second row Luke Charteris and flanker Justin Tipuric are pushing for starting places at the Millennium Stadium on Friday night, while half-backs Mike Phillips and Rhys Priestland have come under pressure for their performances in the 26-3 defeat to Ireland.

Read More: Wales' hopes of Six Nations history take a hit in Dublin

Gatland to announce team to face France in Six Nations

Warren Gatland said Wales' performance against Ireland was 'below par'. Credit: PA

Warren Gatland will announce his team to face France in the Six Nations later. They will be hoping for a better performance from their last outing in the tournament when they lost to Ireland.

Wales' 26-3 defeat in Dublin was their first loss on the road in the Six Nations since they were beaten in Paris three years ago.

Read: Sam Warburton says his side are keen to put right the disappointment of defeat

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Mike Phillips' 'big moment' snapped by Jamie Roberts

Mike Phillips was captured in this shot by team-mate Jamie Roberts Credit: Twitter / Jamie Roberts

Scrum half Mike Phillips has arrived in Paris to start his new career with Racing Metro.

Team-mate Jamie Roberts tweeted this picture of the 31-year-old, adding: 'Big moment here as @mikephillips009 signs his contract over lunch... caption competition!'

The French club confirmed on their website yesterday evening that Phillips has signed a two-and-a-half year deal.

He will be available for selection for this Saturday's Heineken Cup fixture against Harlequins.

Phillips signs two-and-a-half year deal with Racing

French club Racing Metro have confirmed that Wales scrum half Mike Phillips has signed a two-and-a-half year deal to join the club.

Phillips, who's been capped 80 times for Wales and 11 for the British and Irish Lions, was sacked by another French club, Bayonne, in October, after allegedly turning up for a video analysis session under the influence of alcohol.

Phillips signs for Racing Metro

Mike Phillips will join Welsh teammates Dan Lydiate and Jamie Roberts at the club Credit: Szwarc Henri/Press Association Images

Wales scrum half Mike Phillips has signed for French Top 14 side Racing Metro following his sacking from Bayonne.

Racing have yet to confirm the length of the deal but have told ITV News that Phillips's transfer has been finalised and agreed by club Chairman Jacky Lorenzetti.

It is understood that Phillips will arrive in Paris tomorrow where he will meet up with his new team mates for the first time and could go straight into their squad to face Harlequins in the Heineken Cup on Saturday.

The former Ospreys player has spent the Autumn Internationals series in a state of flux since his dismissal from Bayonne for allegedly reporting for training under the influence of alcohol - a move which promoted him to initiate legal proceedings against his former employers.

It is unclear where this now leaves that action.

Phillips joins fellow Wales international Jamie Roberts and Dan Lydiate at the Paris based outfit.

Sacked Phillips says he'll sue Bayonne

Welsh international Mike Phillips says he'll sue French rugby club Bayonne for terminating his contract. He's issued a statement confirming that he's been sacked by the French Top 14 side. Earlier the club's chairman, Alain Afflelou, described the scrum-half's behaviour as "treason".

Phillips was accused last week of turning up drunk for a video analysis session with his team-mates. He apologised to Bayonne's fans on Twitter "for this situation", telling them he was wholeheartedly with the team. He's now joining the Welsh squad for the autumn internationals.

I am extremely disappointed and frustrated by the decision taken by Aviron Bayonnais Rugby Club to terminate my employment. I was also disappointed by the fact that I officially heard about my dismissal through an interview given in a French newspaper this morning.

As a result of discussions with my legal team in France I have now instructed them to issue proceedings against Aviron Bayonnais Rugby Club through the French judicial system.

I will not make any additional comments on this matter and any communication regarding the status of my claims will be made through them.

I wish to thank my team mates and the many friends I have made in the Basque Country for their help and kindness over the past two seasons.

I will now wholeheartedly concentrate all my energy and efforts on training with Wales and try to earn a place in the match day squad to help Wales have a successful Autumn campaign against South Africa, Australia, Argentina and Tonga.

– Mike Phillips
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