There should have been no surprise. The reason was there in all its succinctness in Howley's first response to the media about his selection of the Scarlets' Tavis Knoyle instead. "It's down to the degree of preparation," he said.
Knoyle was in Poland for Wales' recent training camp; Phillips was not.
"Rob feels that Tavis has had that preparation time with the team. We want to win. The press and everyone can build it how they like, but it's all about the preparation and winning against Argentina," says Jamie Roberts.
Howley's illustrious playing career, ended at Wasps in 2004 with a wrist injury, may have straddled the amateur and professional eras, but in terms of fitness and dedication, he was a professional all along. Few in rugby have been so consumed with such a desire for detail and improvement.
Wales' professionalism is their hallmark. "He helps make it a professional environment," says hooker Matthew Rees of Howley.
With Warren Gatland away recently due to nasty foot injuries and his appointment to coach the Lions next summer, today's match, and that against Samoa, are huge occasions for Howley before Gatland returns to take charge against New Zealand and Australia. Then Wales will be all Howley's through the Six Nations and probably the summer tour to Japan. Howley has this extended opportunity to state his case forcibly as his contract extends to 2016. (© Daily Telegraph, London)
Wales -- L Halfpenny; A Cuthbert, S Williams, J Roberts, G North; R Priestland, T Knoyle; G Jenkins, M Rees, A Jarvis; A Wyn Jones, I Evans; J Turnbull, S Warburton (capt), T Faletau. Reps: R Hibbard, R Bevington, P James, R McCusker, J Tipuric, M Phillips, J Hook, L Williams.
Argentina -- J M Hernandez; G Camacho, G Tiesi, F Contepomi, J Imhoff; N Sanchez, M Landajo; M Ayerza, E Guinazu, J Figallo; M Carizza, J Farias Cabello; L Senatore, J M Leguizamon, J M Fernandez Lobbe (capt). Reps: A Creevy, B Postiglioni, J Gomez, T Vallejos Cinalli, T Leonardi, N Vergallo, H Agulla, J Tuculet.
Wales v Argentina,
Live, BBC1, 2.30