This will be the former hooker’s sixth World Cup having played in the inaugural competition in 1987 and been team manager in 2003, 2007, 2011, 2015 and 2019. And having served under five Wales coaches Phillips is well qualified to talk of the Kiwi’s qualities with Gatland stepping aside at the conclusion of the tournament.
“He’s had an unbelievable impact and his record is there for everybody to see,” said Phillips.
“He was a bit emotional in the team talk against Ireland and during the bus journey into the stadium. It was the first time I’ve seen him in tears.
“When you consider he’s been working here for 12 years, working with the same group of people and they all get on well. Respect is there and he’s brilliant with the players.
“I have to say he’s a very sharp operator.”
In New Zealand in 1987 Phillips was part of Wales’ best finish to date at rugby’s global showpiece as they finished third.
But the manager is adamant the current group of players are even better and have the ability to lift the William Webb-Ellis cup in Japan next month.
“I’d say this is the best group of players I’ve been involved with,” he said.
“They are pretty tight as a group. In the Whatsapp group Rob Evans was the first to comment wishing the players all the best. There were eight or nine of them who were very disappointed at not making the cut but they all wished the other boys good luck.
“They are all very professional and no stone is left unturned these days. You’ve just got to give them all the facilities to go out and play and we’ve got that.”