Six Nations: Welsh youngsters must prove themselves, says Mike Phillips

Mike Phillips
Mike Phillips made his senior Wales debut against Romania in August 2003, two days before his 21st birthday.
Six Nations: France v Wales
Venue: Stade de France, Paris Date: Saturday, 18 March Kick-off: 14:45 GMT
Coverage: Live on BBC One Wales & S4C, BBC Radio Wales, BBC Radio Cymru & BBC Sport website and BBC Sport app, plus live text commentary.

Former scrum-half Mike Phillips has urged Wales' rising stars to prove they are good enough for the national side.

Capped 94 times, Phillips' comments come as criticism has been levelled at coach Rob Howley for failing to bring new players into the Wales team.

As they prepare to face France, Wales have capped just three new players since the 2015 World Cup, but Phillips says he understands the situation.

"You can't just blood youngsters because they are young," he said.

Since 2015, only Blues flanker Ellis Jenkins, Newport Gwent Dragons lock Cory Hill and Ospreys fly-half Sam Davies have been handed their senior debuts.

In Wales' final Six Nations clash in Paris, there have been calls for Howley to have one eye on the future and play new faces.

Instead he has stuck with the same side that beat Ireland last time out.

This comes despite Howley having a host of uncapped players in his squad in the shape of Ospreys flanker Olly Cracknell and lock Rory Thornton, Leicester fly-half Owen Williams, Scarlets wing Steffan Evans, Dragons wing Ashton Hewitt, Scarlets scrum-half Aled Davies and Wasps flanker Thomas Young.

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'Don't hand out caps willy-nilly'

Howley has also ignored calls for Davies to start at fly-half and for Ospreys' teenager Keelan Giles to come in on the wing.

Phillips said he agreed with Howley's decision and that he believed the onus was on the young players to show they are ready for the senior side.

"There's a few guys on the verge, but those youngsters have still got to learn," Phillips told BBC Radio Wales.

"They are young and developing, but they will get their time in seasons to come. But they've got to improve in training and show Rob that they deserve to be first-choice players."

Against France, Phillips believes Howley has got his selection spot on.

He added: "It's a difficult one. In that international jersey should be the best because you are the best in the position. You should not just hand out caps willy-nilly to people.

"The development of the future is an important thing, but that needs to be done in a structured way.

"But it has been difficult because of the way things have panned out. They've looked to get the wins and back those players. The best players in Wales are playing on the field, it's as simple as that really."

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