Where next for clubless Mike Phillips?
HE is unlikely to be digging out his CV any time soon or visiting a Job Centre, but Mike Phillips woke today without an employer for the first time in his career.
It will not have been a nice feeling for the farmer's son from Bancyfelin.
He also has the fall-out from his abrupt departure from Bayonne to concern him, with Phillips already having promised legal action against the Basque club, who sacked him for alleged alcohol-related misconduct and then blabbed about it to the French press and left the scrum-half to read about it in a newspaper.
As sobering as it is to be clutching his P45, Phillips is unlikely to be contemplating too many mornings lowering his golf handicap or afternoons playing snooker.
For a start he could earn around £40,000 over the next month if Wales win all their autumn series matches.
That would at least take care of Christmas, and quite a good one at that, but his agents will want to fix him up with a new club quickly after the next four Tests because without one there won't be a pay cheque coming through for the 31-year-old each month.
Where now for him, then?
There has been talk of the Welsh Rugby Union signing him and placing him with a region, but that seems unlikely if the collective agreement among the four Welsh professional sides not to accommodate a centrally contracted player still stands.
The pact came to light last season when the union reportedly wanted to place George North at the Blues after it emerged the Scarlets were prepared to sell the Wales and Lions wing.
If still in existence, it would mean Phillips's chance of playing regional rugby again would be remote.
There is the possibility that Peter Thomas could dig deep to fund a deal for him at the Blues, but the assumption would be that they are already close to the £3.5 million salary cap — and they already have Wales's number two scrum-half in Lloyd Williams.
How much sense would it make for Phillips and Williams to be at the same region? It would be akin to Rhys Priestland joining the Ospreys to compete with Dan Biggar.
Anyway, all four regions yesterday expressed a measure of coolness towards the much-travelled West Walian.
They virtually were all on the same beat: nice bloke, great player, won't have any trouble finding a club — but.
The Ospreys said they were happy with their scrum-half situation, with Tito Tebaldi, Tom Habberfield and the returning Rhys Webb. The Scarlets have three young talents in Rhodri Williams, Gareth Davies and Aled Davies, while the Blues have Williams, and the Dragons have Richie Rees and Jonathan Evans.
On the surface, then, no room at any of the regional inns.
But Lyn Jones didn't completely rule out the possibility of a development at the Dragons, who are 50 per cent owned by the WRU.
"We wouldn't say no," said Jones.
"We would have to look at the possibility...and I think we are the only region Mike hasn't played for."
That regional embargo, though — a way would have to be found around that.
Jones coached Phillips at the Ospreys and got to know him well. "It's a difficult part of Mike's career now, where he has achieved nearly everything the game can offer," said the Dragons' director of rugby.
"He needs to keep his motivation. From his motivation comes his discipline to play for another four years.
"If his motivations match up with his expectations, then he's got a future. If not, I think it's best that he retires."
"But I'm sure there's somebody who will give Mike an opportunity to play and show what he can do.
"We all understand and realise how good a player he can be."
Jones added: "This is going to be a really good test for the union to see how keen Mike is going to be to being centrally contracted."
Making Phillips less attractive for a prospective suitor is that he will be tied up with Wales for three of the remaining seven months of the season, meaning hiring him might not be a great option despite his undoubted quality.
But he has too much to offer to be on the margins for long.
Bath, Saracens, Gloucester and Wasps might all be interested long-term, while Racing Metro and Toulon probably would as well if they are not frightened off by the supposed events at Bayonne.
London Welsh have even been mentioned, perhaps via a deal with the WRU, though a spell in the English championship would be unlikely to send Phillips into raptures.
Whatever, one of the leading rugby players in the world is today in the market for work.
There must be someone out there who wants him?