Welsh Rugby
Phillips relishing "fresh start"
ESPNscrum Staff
July 4, 2011
Wales scrum-half Mike Phillips feeds his back line, Wales v England, Six Nations, Millennium Stadium, Cardiff, Wales, February 4, 2011
Phillips is set to link up with French Top 14 side Bayonne after this year's Rugby World Cup © Getty Images

Wales scrum-half Mike Phillips is looking forward to drawing a line under a troubled season and is ready for a "fresh start" in France with Top 14 side Bayonne.

The 28-year-old British & Irish Lions international was recently suspended from Wales' World Cup training squad following a late-night altercation that came in the wake of a torrid season at the Ospreys where he was on the sidelines and out-of-favour. Phillips has since returned to the Wales camp after issuing an apology for his actions while his domestic future also looks brighter having finalised an early release from his Ospreys contract last month.

Speaking to Rugby World, Phillips said that the Cardiff city centre incident had been "blown out of proportion" after he had found himself "in the wrong place at the wrong time" and he is now focused on hitting the headlines for all the right reasons.

"It was a strange time," Phillips said of an eventful few months at the Ospreys that saw him make just one brief six minute appearance during the season run-in. "I'm a rugby player so I want to play rugby. It was a sad way to finish and it would have been nice to play a part, but I've not got a bad word to say about the Ospreys.

"They're a great bunch of boys and I get on with all of them, I always have. I've got a lot of respect for the coaches and Mike Cuddy...It will be really good to have a fresh start [in France] - that's definitely what I need.

"People in Wales have been great to me over the years, but sometimes I haven't been able to cope with being recognised as well as I should have done and things have been difficult. I've lived in Cardiff for 10 years now and have played rugby my whole life in Wales, for three different regions, so I want to experience different things.

"I don't want to look back and not to have played anywhere else. Rugby is a short career and this is a great opportunity to go and live in France. No matter what happens over there, I'll know I've given it a shot. Leaving friends and family will be tough, but I know I'm going to love it there.

"Bayonne is a top-notch place with nice people. a great stadium and awesome supporters. As a player you want to play in a top league in big atmospheres and big games. It's going to be a great experience and a massive challenge, but that is what you want in life."

In related news, Wales centre Jamie Roberts has urged his team-mates not to over-react in the wake of Phillips latest run-in with team management. "We can't afford to go into our shells and become these isolated people," he told BBC Sport. "That would put across an even worse image. We can't be scared to go out."

Roberts himself hit the headlines earlier this year following a nightclub incident and is well aware of the responsibility that he and the rest of the squad have to set the right example. "As players we realise we're in the public eye and realise the profile we have, and how we are role models to younger players in Wales.

"It's very important we conduct ourselves off the field appropriately. But at the same time, we're all human beings. We train hard, we work very hard and sometimes we need that release. Whether that is a night out in Cardiff, it's just very important we conduct ourselves appropriately.

"The last thing, as a player, I'd like to see happen is we become these people who are scared to go out and have a good time. We're humans at the end of the day. We're in a job that is understandably in the public eye and understandably with high profiles and we are role models to kids."

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