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Battle is on for Lions No.9 shirt

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British & Irish Lions scrum-half Mike Phillips is determined to replace Leicester Tigers star Ben Youngs for the deciding Test in Australia.

The Welshman admits he was devastated to be omitted from the second Test but is determined to put himself in contention for the series decider in Sydney.

Phillips helped the Lions claim a 23-21 win in the opening Test, in Brisbane, a week ago but was not involved at the weekend as the Wallabies levelled up the series.

The Wales star has been troubled by a sore knee during the tour and, although he was fit and available for selection for the second Test, the Lions coaching staff opted to rest him and start with Ben Youngs at No.9.

Phillips, who was also part of the 2009 touring party to South Africa, has spoken of his hurt and frustration at having to watch Saturday's heartbreaking loss from the touchlines, but is hoping he can earn a chance to feature in the winner-takes-all clash next Saturday.

He said: "When (Lions assistant coach) Rob Howley told me I hadn't been selected it was absolutely devastating news.

"My heart sank and I had a weird feeling in my stomach. It was incredibly hard to watch from the stands on Saturday, especially after being involved last week.

"Rob said the coaches had taken the decision to rest me from Saturday's game because of my knee, but I'm a proud man and I still felt I could have done a job for the team.

"I had an injection on Tuesday with the aim to be fit for the second Test. The reaction to it has been great but, unfortunately, the coaches decided not to play me. It's frustrating, but ultimately I have to respect the coaches' decision."

The 30-year-old, who feared his tour might be over after suffering the knee injury in the Lions opening match against the Barbarians, added: "Obviously, the coaches wanted to make sure there were 15 fully fit guys out on the pitch.

"I'm not 100 per cent fit, but then professional rugby players rarely go into games 100 per cent. If I'd been asked to play, I'd have played. The same goes for next week.

"I'm desperate to play next week, of course, but whether the coaches make that call is up to them. They know the extent of the injury to my knee."

Battle is on for Lions No.9 shirt


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