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Welsh Rugby
Howley fires warning to French-based players
ESPN Staff
November 7, 2012
Wales scrum-half Mike Phillips feeds his back line, Wales v England, Six Nations, Millennium Stadium, Cardiff, Wales, February 4, 2011
Mike Phillips has been dropped ahead of Wales' match with Argentina © Getty Images
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Players/Officials: Rob Howley | Tavis Knoyle | Mike Phillips
Tournaments/Tours: Argentina tour
Teams: Argentina | Wales

Wales' interim boss Rob Howley has revealed that one of the primary reasons behind Tavis Knoyle's shock inclusion at scrum-half ahead of their match with Argentina was because the Scarlets No.9 was able to attend last week's training camp in Poland.

The players turning out in France - James Hook, Gethin Jenkins, Lee Charteris and Mike Phillips - along with Bath's Paul James were unable to attend the camp due to club commitments but those playing for the Welsh regions all travelled to Poland. Their availability was due to terms of a participation agreement signed between the four professional regional teams and the Welsh Rugby Union.

Phillips, who has been capped 68 times, has by no means been made a scapegoat, but the fact he was unable to make a key training week has undoubtedly counted against him.

Explaining his decision, Howley said: "There was the amount of work Tavis got through last week, not only with the back line but with the forwards as well, and generally being in and around the team.

"It is important for us that we have had good preparation and Tavis as a half-back is an integral part of the team. He has worked his socks off and deserves to start.

"The dynamics of the team are important when you spend time together. It's about those marginal gains that you get. When you go to France and England (to play), you take yourself out of that environment. It's a difficult one because some of those players, in terms of experience, we might lose that.

"I suppose as coaches we have to take the hit because we want to be hugely supportive of our regional game. We want our supporters to watch the best Welsh players in the Welsh game.

"We want our best players to stay in Wales. That is not always going to be the case, depending on the financial attraction of England and France. The player has to make that decision.

"I think it is pretty important when you look to go abroad that you are responsible enough to make sure (that people know) you want to play for Wales. I think that is the message we have to get out there."

Phillips, Hook and James are all on the bench against Argentina, but Jenkins starts and Charteris will be in action for Perpignan this weekend after a deal was struck to free him in return when Wales face Australia on December 1.

© ESPN Sports Media Ltd.
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