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Wales tour of Australia
Hook and Phillips free for duty
ESPN Staff
May 15, 2012
Wales scrum-half Mike Phillips tries to ignite his backs, England v Wales, Six Nations, Twickenham, London, February 25, 2012
Mike Phillips will be available to face the Barbarians © Getty Images
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Players/Officials: James Hook | Mike Phillips
Tournaments/Tours: Wales tour | Top 14 Orange
Teams: Bayonne | France | Perpignan | Wales

Wales have received a boost with the news that Mike Phillips and James Hook have both been released by their French clubs to join up with the national squad ahead of their game with the Barbarians.

Rob Howley named Bayonne scrum-half Phillips and Perpignan fly-half Hook in a 38-man training squad for the Six Nations champions' summer itinerary on Monday, which includes a June 2 meeting with the Baa-Baas and three Tests against Australia. The squad are set to meet up on May 21, with the exception of the Ospreys' contingent who will be preparing for the RaboDirect Pro 12 final against Leinster.

Bayonne and Perpignan were not obligated to release Phillips and Hook by that date as it falls outside the International Rugby Board's formal date of release for the summer Tests. But the Welsh Rugby Union have been notified by their French counterparts that the players will be available for the start of Wales' training schedule.

Howley praised the move by the French federation saying: "This is fantastic news for us as it means Mike and James will be fully involved in the complete preparation programme we have in place.

"They are both experienced international players but it is still a huge advantage to have them working within our environment from day one. We are extremely grateful to the French Rugby Union and the individual clubs involved for taking this step.

"It is a gesture which will undoubtedly benefit the players and I know they will want to thank their individual clubs for helping them fulfil their international commitments with Wales. It is an example of northern hemisphere rugby working in unity for the benefit of our players and the game in general.

"We are all aware of the difficulties we can encounter when Welsh qualified players are based outside Wales, but this decision shows there are opportunities for us to realise mutual benefits."

Clermont Auvergne full-back Lee Byrne was not included in Howley's squad as he is likely to be in action for his club up until the tour party leaves for three Tests in Australia.

© ESPN Sports Media Ltd.
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