Bayonne sack Wales scrumhalf Mike Phillips
Lions player accused of turning up drunk to team meeting at French club
Wales scrumhalf Mike Phillips has been sacked by French Top-14 club Bayonne. Photograph: David Davies/PA
Wales scrumhalf Mike Phillips is looking for a new club three months before the start of the Six Nations after he was sacked by Bayonne having been accused of turning up drunk to a team meeting.
The Wales and Lions player, who was in the final year of his contract after joining Bayonne in 2011, was suspended for one match and warned about his future conduct after an alcohol-related incident last season.
He met club officials on Tuesday and was informed on Saturday evening that his contract would be terminated, less than two weeks before the start of Wales’ international campaign.
The 31-year-old Phillips sat out Bayonne’s last three matches, including Friday’s Top-14 victory over Montpellier. He maintained his silence over the matter until Thursday night when he posted an apology to Bayonne supporters on his Twitter account, adding he was right behind the team.
Wales have had problems with Phillips but not since 2011. Then, a couple of months before the World Cup, he was involved in an incident outside a Cardiff burger bar in the early hours and told that any repeat would lead to him being axed from the national squad permanently.
Phillips joined up with the Wales squad on Sunday, and the national head coach Warren Gatland is planning to talk to him but not impose any sanctions. Bayonne’s action will not affect Gatland’s plans next month, other than to have his first-choice scrumhalf available for the fourth international against Australia, but the Six Nations is another matter.
Gatland cannot afford the 77-cap Phillips being idle in December and January with scrumhalf not a position where he enjoys strength in depth. The options of the player, who has played for the Scarlets, Cardiff Blues and Ospreys, appear limited.
An English club would be able to sign him only if it had room in its salary cap and few, if any, will have, while he was an exception in France as a foreign scrumhalf. Most French clubs prefer home-grown players in that position, placing a different tactical emphasis there than exists in other countries.
The Welsh Rugby Union may be his best hope. Last week the WRU offered to contract players who were coming towards the end of their deals with their regions but had not been offered new ones because of the uncertainty over the future of the Heineken Cup. A central contract would allow the WRU to place Phillips at a region with Gatland hoping the player will be around for the 2015 World Cup.