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Abu Dhabi, UAEFriday 14 December 2018

Former Wales and Lions scrum-half Mike Phillips named new Jebel Ali Dragons coach

Dubai resident replaces Henry Paul at the West Asia Premiership champions

Mike Phillips, left, the new coach of Jebel Ali Dragons, played 94 times for Wales as well as five Tests for the British & Irish Lions. Courtesy Jebel Ali Dragons
Mike Phillips, left, the new coach of Jebel Ali Dragons, played 94 times for Wales as well as five Tests for the British & Irish Lions. Courtesy Jebel Ali Dragons

Jebel Ali Dragons have appointed Mike Phillips as their new coach.

The West Asia Premiership champions moved to fill the role vacated by Henry Paul, after he left last month to assist Canada with their bid to qualify for the World Cup.

Replacing Paul, who played union at Test level for England and for New Zealand in league, with a coach of similar profile had seemed an unlikely prospect.

However, the Dragons have recruited a coach who played 94 times for Wales as well as five Tests for the British & Irish Lions.

Phillips has been resident in Dubai since shortly after retiring from playing professionally at the end of the 2016/17 season.

He briefly interrupted that retirement last season to assist an injury-hit Scarlets side for two Pro14 matches in South Africa.

He runs a junior coaching academy in Dubai, which he will maintain alongside his commitments with Dragons.

Phillips has stated in the past that his intention is to return to the ranks of the professional game at some point in the future.

However, he wants to develop as a coach via the grassroots game first, hence his academy, and the Dragons role is the next step in his progress.

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Read more from Paul Radley:

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Stuart Quinn, the Dragons chairman, hopes the appointment will help the club attract new players, to continue the progress made during Paul’s two-year spell as coach.

“We can’t afford to pay players, but we have always had a budget for a coach,” Quinn said.

“We felt that we want to continue giving people a really good product, meaning a rugby club taught by a coach that is head a shoulders above the rest.

“Hopefully that will be the correct way of getting people to come and play for us.”

Quinn says Phillips’ arrival has already caused excitement among the club’s playing ranks.

“It is massive for us to have someone who has only recently retired, has five Lions caps and 94 for Wales,” Quinn said.

“The players are really excited. We are hoping there might be some decent rugby players who are here but haven’t been involved, who see this and decide they will have a go.

“Also, although the first team are very important, they are only 23 guys out of the 120 we have. It is really important we deliver a product to them that is worthy of the fees they pay.”