Wales look to win it for Matthew Rees
5:02pm Monday 4th November 2013 in Wales rugby
WALES will be looking to record an historic victory over South Africa this Saturday in honour of former captain Matthew Rees who is battling testicular cancer, writes Iwan Gabe Davies.
His former Scarlets teammate and hooker Emyr Phillips could add to the two caps he won on Wales’ summer tour of Japan with the Springboks in town this weekend.
Phillips says the news that ex-Wales skipper Rees, 32, who joined Cardiff Blues from Parc y Scarlets over the summer, is to undergo extensive treatment at Velindre Cancer Centre in Cardiff was deeply upsetting for fellow players.
“I’ve personally played with him and almost all the boys (in the Wales squad) have played with him somewhere down the line so it was a big shock across the board really and all the boys are thinking about him and it’ll be great to get the result for him,” the 26-year-old said.
With fellow Scarlet Ken Owens struggling to overcome a muscle injury around his hip this season, the promising Phillips could be set to be Richard Hibbard’s deputy this weekend.
The mood in the camp going into the Springboks is a good one he revealed, buoyed by the fact the British and Irish Lions’ success in the recent Test series against Australia came thanks to the majority of the match-day squad being Welshmen but South Africa were impressive as they just missed out on the Rugby Championship title to New Zealand.
“I think the boys are excited,” Phillips said. “Obviously a lot of the boys are coming back from a very successful Lions tour.
“South Africa have done really well in the last few months so it’s a huge challenge early doors and I think the boys would probably prefer that, getting thrown in at the deep end straight away.”
Phillips admits he has benefitted from training with Lions hooker Hibbard and Owens who has won a Grand Slam and successive Six Nations titles with Wales.
“From watching Hibbs’ games from the summer, he’s a hugely physical player and he can create game-changing moments just from big hits or big carries and Ken’s a similar kind of player,” he said.
“They are very physical players. I’ve picked up a lot of technical stuff from scrummaging against them and throwing in. I’m the most inexperienced of the three so I’m just trying to take in as much as possible.”
If Wales do beat South Africa this weekend, it will be only their second win in 107 years of trying.
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