The situation between Mike Phillips and Bayonne turned ugly yesterday when the Wales and Lions scrum-half started legal action against the French club after they announced his sacking.
“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,” he said before describing himself as “disappointed and frustrated” by the club’s decision.
Phillips has been fired for, it has been alleged, turning up for a video analysis session under the influence of alcohol. Alain Afflelou, the Basque club’s chairman and major financial backer, confirmed the decision yesterday – and did so in no uncertain terms. “It was him or me,” he told a French newspaper. “If the decision hadn’t been taken, I could not have stayed. From the moment he let us down – his friends, coaches and supporters – it was not possible to keep him.
“I trusted him: I kept him on a year ago, against everyone’s advice. This summer, I even invited him to my house to offer him a contract extension. This is treason. With all our problems at the moment, we did not need this type of behaviour. It could no longer be tolerated.”
This much is certain, Phillips cannot afford a long spell out of top-level rugby, for his place in the national team is far from secure. Lloyd Williams, the Cardiff Blues half-back, is a player of Test quality, and there is a good deal of excitement surrounding the uncapped Scarlets scrum-half Rhodri Williams.
James O’Connor, another one of world rugby’s troubled souls, is seeking to piece his career back together at London Irish, he will confirm today.
O’Connor, the multifaceted Australian back, richly talented in at least three positions, had his Wallaby contract terminated earlier this month after a number of off-field indiscretions, culminating in a brush with police while attempting to board a holiday flight in Perth.
His decision to head for Europe after failing to agree terms with the Super 15 team Western Force put a number of Premiership clubs on big-name alert, but the Exiles appear to be the best of fits. He will work with a fellow Australian in Brian Smith, the former England attack coach, and should feel at home in a melting- pot environment alongside players from Canada, New Zealand, Samoa and Tonga.