Mike Phillips returns to Wales squad

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The Independent Online

Mike Phillips' indefinite suspension from Wales squad duties has ended.

The 28-year-old was banned "with immediate effect" on June 17 following allegations of an incident involving the scrum-half in Cardiff city centre.

However, Phillips met Wales Rugby Union bosses today and apologised, leading to a statement from the WRU which confirmed he would be allowed to return to the squad and take part in World Cup training from tomorrow.

Phillips, who was not arrested and is not facing any criminal action in relation to the incident in Cardiff, said: "This is the most embarrassing thing that has happened to me in my career."

The Lions scrum-half, who sealed a move to French Top 14 club Bayonne from the Ospreys earlier this month, said: "I am ashamed to have let myself get into this kind of situation and I am determined to put things right.

"As a player I'm really passionate and never back down. I know I can't allow that part of my character to come to the surface off the rugby pitch.

"I have realised I have an issue with the way in which I deal with, and have dealt with, the pressures of my current environment and have sought, and will continue to seek, help and advice in relation to that issue.

"I have formally and sincerely apologised to my team-mates and the coaching staff in the Welsh squad and would like to take this opportunity to do exactly the same to the Welsh rugby public and anyone else who has been offended by this or other episodes.

"I am a professional rugby player and I give the game my all, but there have been times I have let myself down as well as my family, the fans and my team-mates.

"The positive thing to come out of everything is that I now fully recognise that I need to deal with these pressures and I am taking every step to ensure that it is resolved.

"I deeply regret my behaviour, my exclusion from the squad took place in the glare of intense publicity and all I can hope for now is the privacy to concentrate totally on convincing the squad management I deserve to keep my place and the public's understanding and support for what I'm trying to do.

"I am a proud Welshman and I remain determined to devote myself to being the best rugby player I can possibly be to gain success for Wales in the World Cup and future tournaments."

The WRU statement read: "Mike Phillips met with the senior Wales squad management today, following his suspension on Friday, June 17.

"The player was informed his conduct in Cardiff city centre, earlier that week, had not adhered to the standards expected of a member of the Wales senior squad.

"Phillips accepted the view of the senior management team in full and gave an assurance that he understands the action taken to punish his behaviour and is taking active steps to ensure there is no repeat.

"The player addressed the Wales extended Rugby World Cup training squad players, explained his conduct and outlined his plans to ensure there is no repeat of the incident and apologised.

"Following the meetings and taking into account the duration of the 10-day suspension, Phillips will now be allowed to return to the squad and take part in pre-Rugby World Cup training from tomorrow, Tuesday, June 28.

"The senior squad management panel he met at their headquarters in the WRU national centre of excellence, consisted of head coach Warren Gatland, assistant coach Rob Howley, and national squad manager Alan Phillips."

Gatland said: "Mike clearly breached the disciplinary code of conduct we have in place and was dealt with decisively and properly.

"We have taken into account all the relevant issues and Mike's apology in taking the decision to reinstate him in the extended RWC squad.

"An important factor in allowing Mike back into the squad was his decision to actively seek help to resolve his behavioural issues."

WRU chief executive, Roger Lewis, added: "It was very important for us to make it absolutely clear that Welsh rugby will not tolerate inappropriate behaviour.

"The message is now abundantly clear that we represent certain standards which will be maintained at all times both on and off the field of play. The Welsh rugby public expect it and deserve it."

Most of the Wales squad are currently attending training sessions at the WRU national centre of excellence and Phillips will join them from tomorrow.