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Phillips: Wales must be strong

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Sportal.co.nz     19 Nov 2012     Getty Images

Wales, despite going into battle as World Cup semi-finalists and Six Nations champions, will arrive at the Millennium Stadium next Saturday as rank outsiders.

While the All Blacks breezed past Scotland and Italy on a so far effortless autumn journey, scoring 93 points and 11 tries, injury-ravaged Wales are reeling from home defeats against Argentina and Samoa.

To compound matters, Wales posted a solitary touchdown across those two games, and that was an interception effort, which highlights how far their renowned attacking game has fallen.

"I don't want to offer excuses because we are bigger than that," scrum-half Phillips said.

"We know we are going to get a lot of flak now, but it's important that we show we can stand up to people. We have to be strong.

"It is quite a young group and a lot of them wouldn't have experienced something like this, but the senior players have, and we can bounce back.

"We've done it in the past and we can do it again.

"We have had a lot of injuries, which has been unfortunate, but we can't look for excuses. These things make you stronger and we have to be positive and learn from this."

Samoa's 26-19 success means Wales are without a win in five Tests since they beat the Barbarians on June 2. One more defeat would make it their longest losing run for 10 years.

They will face the All Blacks without injured forwards Adam Jones, Alun-Wyn Jones and Dan Lydiate, while hookers Richard Hibbard (shoulder) and Matthew Rees (calf) are also on the casualty list, together with first five-eighths Dan Biggar.

But injury issues aside, Wales remain miles away from attaining performance levels that saw them march through last season's Six Nations campaign unbeaten.

"You have to get the basics of rugby right," added 70 times-capped Phillips. "We have to improve these things.

"We are obviously devastated. It was really poor [against Samoa] and we just weren't good enough.

"There were too many errors, our discipline wasn't good enough and we gave away too many penalties. They came to spoil the breakdown and kick the ball, but it's just really disappointing.

"The players on the pitch have to stand up. We are making silly mistakes, dropping the ball, giving silly penalties away. It is fine margins, and it's the players that have to stand up."

Phillips believes the Wales squad owe their coaching staff - bolstered this week by boss Warren Gatland's return from preparatory British and Irish Lions business - and supporters a performance.

New Zealand and Australia, fresh from defeating England at Twickenham yesterday, threaten an autumn whitewash for Wales, while their opening Six Nations fixture against Ireland is just 11 weeks away.

"We have a great management team," Phillips said.

"All the players respect them and want to play well for them and the public. It's disappointing that we have let a lot of people down.

"Next Saturday is a chance to put some pride back in the jersey, and we have to do that. We have to show people that we are proud of the jersey."