Nick Phipps doesn’t want to throw away his Wallabies chance.
He knows it takes just one mistake, one bad half or game to surrender ascendency in the Test pecking order, in large part because it has happened to him.
Locked in a battle with Queensland’s Will Genia for the World Cup scrumhalf spot last season, Phipps was left kicking himself for not grasping his opportunities.
Phipps started two Tests leading into the World Cup, the Bledisloe in Sydney and the team’s final warm-up game in Chicago, and he is frank in admitting he never quite reached the heights he should have.
“I guess I was working hard but at the end of the day when I needed to be playing well I wasn’t playing well and that’s what you get,” he says.
“You look back on it and think, ‘I just needed a good game there and I would’ve been fine’.
“One pass or two passes or a couple of missed tackles and I would’ve been fine if I just didn’t do them.
“There was two games - Bledisloe in Sydney and the US game when we played USA, that was sort of my last chance and I didn’t play well, that’s life.
“If you don’t play well one game you can be gone. Hopefully I won’t have any of them in me this year and I’ll be able to build that consistency.”
There’s no bitterness or frustration in Phipps about the way last season turned out, rather a determination to turn things around, with a fresh series to change his own fortunes.
“No one takes the jersey for granted but I know how finite and how fickle it can be,” he says.
“You can get dropped from a team even when you sat on the bench and didn’t even get on the field, which happened when I played against Scotland ages ago, with Robbie (Deans).
“You’ve just to make sure you’re putting your best foot forward every day and proving to people you want to be there and you want to do your very best.”
After a 2014 championship with the Waratahs, Phipps looked too quickly to the World Cup, a move he believes cost him, taking his mind away from building a strong case together for the Wallabies XV.
“Last year I was looking too big a picture about what I needed to do and not focusing on the process and not what I needed to do in that respect.
“This year’s definitely been process driven for me, number one getting a quality pass back and looking to be an attacking threat.
“I think I’m definitely a better person because of those experiences - everyone’s had tough moments but you definitely find out a lot about yourself (when that happens).”
Phipps has had a roundabout journey to the Wallabies, never safely ensconced in a spot, after arriving at his first camp straight from the Commonwealth Games in Delhi, where he represented the Australian Sevens team.
“I’ve travelled such a different road to everyone else, I wasn’t picked in the rep teams, I was a tiny kid, I went through a backdoor way into the Wallabies squad,” he says.
“I played Sevens because someone got injured, played alright because a few more blokes kept getting injured then went to Comm Games, to be in a really good squad at Sevens, and then get picked in the Wallabies.
“Everyone has different roads. You see so many people in this group - everyone’s got a different story.
“I think it’s important that you know what you’re good at and you know what you want to do and stick your mind to it and then just be a stubborn bugger and never give up.”
With Genia in France, it seems like Phipps’ opening to stamp himself as the Wallabies nine has come around all over again but he says there is no sense of a fait accompli.
“I haven’t really thought about it like that too much,” he said.
“I’ve been in the squad for about six years now and I’ve always, even when you start playing well or you start playing poorly, there’s always so many ups and downs.
“I don’t think I’m ever going to be one that’s going to be complacent or ever be like, ‘this is my chance to take it’.
“This is the position I want to be in and I want to take it with both hands.
“If I get that opportunity, I won’t be dying wondering, I won’t be letting anyone down."