Former Wales and British & Irish Lions scrum-half Mike Phillips replaces Henry Paul as new director of rugby at Jebel Ali Dragons
Phillips, who is the joint sixth most capped Welshman of all-time with 94 caps for the Dragons, only retired in 2017 and quickly moved out to the UAE, where he established his Mike Phillips Rugby Academy alongside Just Play in December.
The 35-year-old former scrum-half replaces another former professional player at Dragons, after ex-New Zealand league and England union international Henry Paul left Dragons to take up an assistant coaching role with Canada last month after two years with Jebel Ali.
Paul returned Dragons to prominence in that time; the club winning the West Asia Premiership last season to pick up a coveted first piece of silverware in four seasons.
And Phillips is keen for Dragons to build upon the foundations laid by Paul and push on under his guidance.
“I’m so delighted to join the current leading team in the UAE, Jebel Ali Dragons,” said Phillips.
“I can’t wait to add the passion and energy I showed in my playing career now in my new role as director of rugby and working with a very experienced and successful coaching team.
“Henry Paul did such a great job in moving the team forward, and I hope to push it further along with what I’ve learned throughout my career.”
Phillips earned a reputation for being a fearsome competitor during his playing days, shining as a scrum-half – Wales’ most capped number nine after surpassing Dwayne Peel – despite being unusually tall for the position (6ft 4in).
He scored nine tries in the hallowed red jersey and also earned five Lions caps on tours to South Africa in 2009 and Australia in 2013.
He played in the 2007 and 2011 Rugby World Cups for Wales and was at nine for Wales’ 2008 and 2012 Grand Slam-winning Six Nations campaigns as well as the side which retained the championship in 2013.
Dragons chairman Stuart Quinn is certain Phillips can raise the bar set for the club by Paul.
“As a club we have decided that investing in the very best coaching options available to us is the only way to succeed and achieve sustainability,” he said.
“We believe Mike will take the platform set by the previous DoR and raise the quality once again. The standard of rugby is leaping forward in the region and we think that it’s our responsibility to ensure the coaching is always ahead of that.
“We have a product that we offer to over 120 senior players. We need to make sure it’s the best product in West Asia and the UAE.
“Mike brings his wealth of knowledge to the current West Asia champions. Working alongside last year’s coaching team of Andrew Buist and Jonny Macdonald, Mike will be looking to build on a club that is set to raise the bar higher once again.
“As a player that has only just retired, he brings the most recent and relevant rugby knowledge to the club. The appointment along with the continued support of Dragons’ sponsors, JA Hotels and Hesco, positions the team well for the upcoming season.”
Since moving to the Emirates, Phillips has also appeared as a rugby pundit for beIN Sports.
To learn more about Phillips’ academy, visit www.mikephillipsacademy.com