Wales v France, Six Nations, February 26
Rees relishing starting role
February 23, 2010
Richie Rees is looking to get in Morgan Parra's face © Getty Images
Cardiff Blues scrum-half Richie Rees has admitted his surprise at the return of Mike Phillips and Dwayne Peel to the Wales squad ahead of their vital meeting with France at the Millennium Stadium on Friday night.
Rees will start his first Test as Wales look to build on their victory over Scotland, with the recently returned Phillips beating Peel to a place on the bench. The Lions duo were recalled to the squad following injuries on Sunday, leaving Rees anxiously awaiting Warren Gatland's team announcement.
"I didn't know either of them were coming," he said. "When they both walked into the hotel, I thought, 'here we go!' It's nice to have them back but I just try to concentrate on my own game.
"If I was selected, I was selected - if not, it wasn't to be. We will see how Friday goes and then take it from there. "I thought I did what I could [against England and Scotland]. I stuck to the gameplan and things worked out all right. The coaches were pretty pleased with what I offered and now I've got a start on Friday, which is obviously what you want."
Rees can look to a purple patch of form with Cardiff Blues as the reason for his success, although the diminutive No.9 has been working towards international recognition for some time. After leaving the Ospreys to join London Irish, he jumped ship again when the Blues, and the possibility of a Wales cap, became an option.
"They had just signed Justin Marshall, so it wasn't really worth me staying there," he said. "I agreed a two-year deal with Irish but then we played the Blues in the Anglo-Welsh Cup.
"The game went well, Dai Young had a chat with me afterwards and I went to the powers that be at Irish and asked if I could come home. I had a fantastic time at Irish, they were very good to me, and the only reason I came back was for Welsh selection.
"Now, a couple of years later, that has happened. I worked with Brian Smith (current England backs coach) when I was with Irish and he is someone I have a lot of time for. "The good thing with Irish was that they like to throw the ball around a bit. Brian encouraged you to go with your instinct, and my instinct is maybe to try to play a bit. He gave me the go-ahead to do that - we got on well."
Rees will have his hands full trying to contain his opposite number, Clermont's Morgan Parra, who has been arguably the standout performer in the tournament so far.
"He's had an excellent start to the Six Nations, to be fair to him," Rees said. "I've looked at his last couple of games and I think he controls a lot of what the French do - he is key for them. Maybe I have got to try and get in his face a little bit and see where that gets us."