Win Half Truths, the book by Mike Phillips
Half Truths is the autobiography of Mike Phillips, whose 94 caps make him the most-capped Wales scrum-half in history. Phillips, who lives in Dubai, played in two World Cups and toured with the British & Irish Lions in 2009 and 2013.
At the bottom of this article, we’re offering you a chance to win one of six signed copies of Half Truths, which has been written in collaboration with Matthew Southcombe and is published by Reach Sport. First, by way of a taster, here’s an extract from the book concerning an old habit for which Phillips was renowned – winding up opponents…
‘Of all the rivalries I had with Irish players down the years, the biggest one was with Ronan O’Gara and we weren’t even opposite numbers,’ writes Mike Phillips. ‘I really respected Rog and I used to go at him because I knew how important he was to the teams that he played for.
I faced him in my early days at Llanelli, when Munster came to Stradey Park, and I just decided to have a go at him relentlessly, calling him s**t and everything else under the sun.
I was obviously young at the time and a lot of it was probably to do with me being nervous and trying to get myself up for the game. It was a huge opportunity for me. Back then, youngsters didn’t start as regularly as they do now and Munster had all their big guns out. I was onto him all the time in that game and it got to the point where Robin McBryde, our hooker, turned around and went: “Mike, I’ve had enough of it, it’s got to stop!”
So I did. Paul O’Connell laughs about that to this day. I’ve always had the attitude that whatever happens on the field stays on the field, and I’m pretty good at just forgetting about stuff when I leave the pitch.
What I don’t realise is that sometimes I can hurt people’s feelings and they remember it more than I do. In the warm-up ahead of the 2009 match against Ireland, I was going through my kicking drills and my ball bounced into their half. I went to get it and had to run past Rog.
We were probably about five metres apart. He’s just absolutely ripped into me, calling me all sorts: “Get back in your own half you Welsh…” It took me back a bit and by the time I’d picked my ball up, the red mist had descended.
As I ran back past him, I fired a load of verbals at him, calling him useless, s**t and all the rest of it. He probably hated me ever since I had a go at him at Stradey! This was before kick-off! Every time me and Rog faced each other, we were at each other. We were just two passionate blokes who loved winning.
Anyway, when I arrived for the first day of (2009 Lions) camp, I flung the door to my room open and who should be lying on one of the beds? My new room-mate Rog. I thought he’d absolutely hate me after the way we’d been at each other’s throats, but we both just burst out laughing as soon as we clocked what was happening.
Before we knew it, we were getting on like a house on fire. We’d sit next to each other on the team bus, have really good banter. Whenever Stephen Jones would get on the bus, Rog would be in my ear: “Here he comes, the King has arrived.”
My girlfriend at the time had packed a load of things for me to open when I got to South Africa. There were a few pictures of us in there and I put them on my bedside table. Rog was pissing himself, saying: “Mike, we’re going away for about eight weeks, not eight months!”
That was a bit of ammunition for him but I thought it was a lovely gesture! He was great fun, very quick-witted. He would often sing the lyrics to You’re A Superstar by Love Inc. whenever I was around, which gave everyone a laugh.
He got quite frustrated with how much game time he was getting on tour but I was completely blown away by his skills in training. He was such an accurate kicker of the ball and his distribution was brilliant. He was a great communicator and an absolute animal on the field. He was very passionate, very proud and just a superb bloke.’
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Half Truths is published by Reach Sport, RRP £20. It comes highly recommended.