Mike Phillips: My Greatest XV

It has now been two decades since Italy joined the Guinness Six Nations and the Championship has provided countless memorable moments in that time.

It has now been two decades since Italy joined the Guinness Six Nations and the Championship has provided countless memorable moments in that time.

As we reflect on the past 20 years, we are asking some of the great players who have played a part to select their Greatest XV.

Today we have Mike Phillips, the Wales scrum-half who won 94 caps for his country and won the Championship three times including Grand Slams in 2008 and 2012.

Phillips decided against selecting former Wales teammates, instead sticking to those he faced with the XV below.

You can join in too on the Guinness Six Nations app where you can pick your own ultimate team and compare it to Phillips’ Greatest XV below.

I only caught him right at the end but he was a sensational player. His footwork was similar to Shane Williams, he could light up a stadium. He had that ability to score incredible tries and an amazing player to go and watch and then later play against.

I’ve got to put him in for his try-scoring ability, he was doing it for years. In Wales a lot of people will remember him being on the wrong end of the tip tackle at the World Cup, but in terms of the Six Nations, he was a constant threat whenever you watched France. Numbers-wise I think he’s right up there in terms of France players.

It’s all been said about Brian, one of the iconic figures in Ireland. Like Paul O’Connell and Ronan O’Gara. He was a winner and towards the end of his career he just seemed to score important tries. Perhaps not the same as the ones early in his career, but those little ones picking and going, he would always contribute to the team. He’s a good guy as well.

Funnily enough, the first time I ever played centre was against him in Toulouse when we had a few injuries. I thought he was amazing, he was so big and strong but would glide when he ran and get the offloads away. He was an unbelievable player, one of the best France have had.

We played at the Ospreys together and going back to 09 he scored against us. He just had a knack for scoring great tries. I played with him on the Lions tour that year, he was a great athlete and a great rugby player, with his ability in the air and his footballing skills.

I remember him so many times in the Six Nations, and against us in particular. In 09 he dropped that goal to win the Grand Slam against us. Only he could have done it. He managed the play all the way up to that moment and took that chance. He did it time and again. I got to know him off the field as well, and like all these people, they are good people as well.

I was struggling for this one because I didn’t really want to put anyone in at scrum-half! He probably came through towards the end of my career and he’s gone on to be very successful. His control of the game is good and he was a real threat with his running ability, especially early on so you always had to be aware of that.

The Italian scrum, like the French, is where they pride themselves. The passion would shine through every game and their set-piece would always be excellent. Lo Cicero won 103 caps which is a pretty incredible effort. He epitomised that Italian pack.

I caught him at the back end of his career and went on to meet him a couple of times and he is a lovely guy as well. He was very controlled and a great hooker. I quite like old school players and he was one of the last to throw one-handed into the lineout so I have to get him in for that.

I don’t know too much about the front row, and to be honest I don’t want to know, but the French are really passionate about their scrum and it’s the backbone to their team performance. Mas was one of the best they have had. It was always tough against them and as a nine you knew they would give a solid foundation to their team.

I played against him a lot, at club and international level. He was a World Cup winner and a bruiser with incredible work rate. He was solid in the lineout as well, and I got to work with him at the World Cup and he’s a top, top guy as well so I’ll put him in there.

I played with him for the Lions and got to know him there. He was just the ultimate professional and so clinical with the all-round game. Playing against him, he would steal so much of our ball. We had some big games against Ireland in 2008 and 2009, it was a big battle and he was a big part of it.

I played a couple of times against him towards the end but he had a massive presence and great go-forward. He was a great leader as well and just so powerful with ball in hand. He scored loads of tries against Wales so he sticks in the mind.

You could probably put him in at six if you wanted but I’ll stick him at seven. Another big ball-carrier and really good over the ball as well. He was so strong and powerful and I think he’s been missed by the Ireland team.

We are the same age and I think we played Under-21s against each other so I’ve faced him for years. He was a pain on the pitch but just a sensational player. One of the all-time greats in Championship history.

If you think you can do better than Mike Phillips’ Greatest XV of the Six Nations era, download the app and pick your ultimate team