Whatever Mike Phillips, the scrum-half who played all three Tests for the British and Irish Lions against South Africa in 2009, may have said recently about his sweetness-and-light relationship with the Swansea-based Ospreys, there is a problem somewhere. So serious a problem, indeed, that Scott Johnson, the director of coaching at the Liberty Stadium, says Phillips will be on his way just as soon as he finds himself another club.
"After continued requests from Mike over the last 18 months, we have agreed to let him go," said Johnson, who recently signed the talented Samoan half-back Kahn Fotuali'i and has clearly tired of the pretence. "We have an organisation to run," the Australian added, "and anybody who doesn't want to be here, we'll move on. Sadly, it's the way the sport is going. I'd rather have people here who want to be here."
Phillips, first-choice No 9 for Wales in this year's Six Nations, is expected to follow his clubmates, the full-back Lee Byrne and the midfielder James Hook, to France. Byrne has agreed terms with Clermont Auvergne while Hook is bound for Perpignan, but Phillips is thought likely to move to Toulouse, the reigning European champions, who are losing the All Black scrum-half Byron Kelleher to Bayonne.
The Bath prop David Barnes and the Munster flanker Alan Quinlan both announced their retirements yesterday. Barnes will pack it in with immediate effect. The 34-year-old has been suffering from neck problems and saw little reason to reject the most recent advice from medical staff. He will continue to serve as chairman of the Rugby Players' Association until the end of the current campaign.
Quinlan, one of the oldest top-level players in Europe at 37, would have gone to South Africa with the Lions in 2009 had he not been banned for gouging shortly before departure. "His longevity is a tribute to his dedication, application and durability," said Tony McGahan, the Munster coach.
Newcastle and Bourgoin have both been handed suspended one-year bans from Europe for failing to fulfil a Challenge Cup fixture scheduled for 22 January. The clubs have also been fined €25,000 (£22,190) and €75,000 respectively.