Waratahs halfback Jake Gordon has a clear goal for Thursday’s final Super Rugby trial, with Nick Phipps ruled out of the preseason match.
Gordon had eight starts in 12 Super Rugby appearances last year, competing with Nick Phipps for the starting spot, with injuries and form giving him the chance to prove himself in his rookie season.
The 24-year-old will have first crack at that nine spot this year, with Phipps set to miss Thursday’s Brookvale Oval match against the Rebels with a calf injury, and Gordon wants to make the most of it.
“(My aim is) to cement my spot as number nine for the Waratahs, I think that's pretty clear,” he said.
“I think as bad as it is for Nick, it's an opportunity for me to get better and push my case as the number nine at the Waratahs.”
Phipps is also in doubt for the Waratahs’ round one match against the Stormers, though attack coach Chris Malone wasn’t game to completely write him off yet.
“You never know with him because he's so diligent about what he does,” he said.
“He's obviously trying to get himself right as soon as possible but I'm not a physio, I can't predict the future.
“He's closer to being ready for next week than he is for this one.”
For Gordon, 2018 will be a more familiar year, after a season of firsts in 2017, that culminated in a June Series Wallabies squad call-up.
“I guess going into the year (last year), at the start I didn't even know if I was going to get a game,” he said.
“So then to be called into a Wallabies squad was a bit surprising. I really enjoyed it, I was only in there for June and that was a good experience to see the likes of Will Genia and Nick (Phipps), I see Nick every day, but to see someone else do what they do day in, day out and learning off them was something I enjoyed.”
Gordon will likely go head-to-head with Genia on Thursday, a timely challenge heading into the season.
“It will be an unreal test,” he said.
“He's a starting nine for the Wallabies and that's where I want to be in the future, so there's no better way to test (yourself than) against the best in Australia.
“I really watched him (last year), watched what he did around the joint, the way he did his rehab, post-training the way he did his skills and those little things I can learn on, being a rookie my first year of Super Rugby.”
Malone said on Tuesday that Kurtley Beale was expected to return from an elbow injury that ruled him out of the Brisbane Tens.
“At this stage, Kurtley will play,” he said.
The Waratahs are likely to name their team for the trial on Wednesday.
The Waratahs take on the Rebels at Brookvale Oval on Thursday night, kicking off at 6:45pm AEDT. Buy tickets here.