Dwayne Peel backs record-breaker Mike Phillips to win century of Wales caps
MIKE Phillips will become the most capped Wales scrum-half of all time on Saturday — with the man who has held the record backing him to go on to become the first Welsh No. 9 to play 100 times for his country.
It has taken the former Osprey almost a decade to clamber to the top of a very long list that has on it illustrious names such as Gareth Edwards, Terry Holmes, Robert Jones, Rob Howley and Dwayne Peel.
Peel has been top of the pile for a number of years, but Phillips will overtake him when he wins cap number 77 in the Six Nations championship title decider against England on Saturday, and Peel expects his old rival to continue for some time yet.
"You never know what's around the corner, but I think it's probable Mike will go on to hit 100 caps," said Peel.
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"As long as he stays fit, he should get there.
"He's obviously a good player. His biggest strength is his competitiveness.
"That goes a long way to making him the player he is."
It is hard to see why Phillips shouldn't forge on towards three figures, with the Bayonne man firmly established as Wales's first-choice in his position.
He is known to feel setting the cap record against England to be a massive honour, but his priority this weekend will be to help Wales ruin the old enemy's Grand Slam dream and pinch the title from under their noses.
Howley's side need to win by eight points to seal an improbable championship or they can get there with a seven-point success as long as England don't score two tries more than them in defeat.
The scene is set for a momentous tussle and Wales hope they will have an advantage having been through so many high-pressure occasions in recent years, with many of their squad having figured in Grand Slam deciders and a World Cup semi-final.
"I'm pleased that we've had the experience of playing in big games before," said defence coach Shaun Edwards.
"Most of our team has played in a Grand Slam game — a lot of them have played in two, some in three. They've played in a World Cup semi-final.
"I'm really hoping that experience will help on Saturday because it's a huge game."
Peel, currently sidelined by a fractured jaw, was at Murrayfield as a spectator last Saturday, and is backing his old team-mates to rise to the occasion in Cardiff.
"It would be great for the boys to win the title," he said.
"I thought they did really well to get a result up in Scotland.
"It wasn't the prettiest game, but they fronted up and played to the conditions."
The ex-Scarlet, who has started just four Tests in the past five years, said: "Being at the Scotland game does make you realise how much you miss international rugby — the atmosphere and everything.
"Do I still want to play for my country? Of course. You have to have those ambitions. It means a huge amount." Wales have welcomed Gethin Jenkins back to training for the shootout with England, but Ryan Jones remains doubtful for the finale having injured a shoulder against Scotland.
He underwent a scan yesterday and was expected to be further monitored by Welsh Rugby Union medics this morning.