Representative Honours: Australian Sevens 2010, Australian Wallabies 2011-
Senior Tours: Hong Kong & Europe 2010, RWC (New Zealand) 2011, England & Wales 2011; UK/Europe 2013
NSW Waratahs scrumhalf NICK PHIPPS represented the Qantas Wallabies for a third successive year in 2013, coming on as a replacement twice in Australia’s historic series against The British & Irish Lions.
While interlocked in a battle with Will Genia and Nic White throughout the remainder of the year, Phipps continued to be the ultimate team man and proved invaluable as a squad member under the stewardship of new coach Ewen McKenzie.
Phipps made it onto the field in two out of the three Tests against the Lions. Australia’s unprecedented slew of injuries in the starting backline during the first Test in Brisbane saw Phipps engaged as a winger for the final four minutes of the match.
He was utilised again in the third Test, replacing Genia in the 70th minute to earn his 14th cap.
That came a year after Phipps was left in the hot seat after blown knee ligaments put paid to Genia midway through 2012, with the talented scrumhalf doing a superb job during the second half of the year.
The 25-year-old, who was first included in the national team on the 2010 Spring Tour, set up the match-winning try for Digby Ioane as Australia came from behind to beat Argentina on the Gold Coast in his first Test start. He then initiated the try finished off by winger Nick Cummins that turned the tide as Australia again came from behind, this time to regain the Cook Cup by beating England at Twickenham.
Small in size but big on heart and work rate, Phipps also excelled on defence, with his work being highlighted by a try-saving tackle, at a time when the Qantas Wallabies were reduced to 13 fit defenders, during a courageous individual performance against South Africa in Pretoria.
Phipps grew in the directing role as the year progressed, performing well under pressure against Argentina at Rosario, and also during his first experience tangling with the All Blacks, in the drawn third Bledisloe Cup Test of 2012 in Brisbane.
A product of the Sydney University development system, Phipps first cut his teeth on the international stage as part of the Australian Sevens side on the 2009 -10 IRB Sevens World Series.
He was called into the Qantas Wallabies ranks for the 2010 Spring Tour, making his debut with 23 minutes during the midweek match against Munster at Limerick, before playing his first Test a year later against Samoa in Sydney.
That was the first of three Test appearances in 2011, being followed by a brief spell off the bench during the Tri Nations win over South Africa in Sydney, and a cameo from the wing as the replacement for an injured Drew Mitchell, when Australia beat Russia at the Rugby World Cup.
This came about due to the injuries that struck the Wallabies during the tournament – his fellow ‘wingman’ on that occasion was usual No.8 Radike Samo.
His final appearance for the Wallabies in 2011 was from the bench during the record 60-11 dismissal of the Barbarians at Twickenham.
Phipps, who went to the NSW Waratahs in 2013, was the first player attached to the new Melbourne Rebels franchise to play for Australia, and has been arguably the club’s best buy – performing consistently while not missing a match throughout team’s first two seasons.
Despite having Wallaby halfbacks, veteran Sam Cordingley and rising star Richard Kingi, as competition just for a place in the match night squad; Phipps exceeded expectations by nailing down the starting position, leaving the now-retired Cordingley on the bench, while the versatile 2009 Wallaby tourist Kingi was relocated to wing and fullback.
Phipps followed his Sydney Uni backs coach Damian Hill to Victoria. The pair headed south after combining to help Uni to consecutive Shute Shield (NSW) club titles in 2009 and 2010.
Phipps first made his mark on the Sevens scene at the back end of 2009 when he covered for James Stannard at the Dubai and Wellington Sevens tournaments.
An ankle injury sustained in Wellington forced Phipps to miss the Las Vegas round of the 2009-10 Series, and the home Australian Sevens tournament in Adelaide.
He returned to the team in time to compete in the final two legs of the Series, where Australia won in London and finished second in Edinburgh.
He also featured prominently during the Aussies’ run to a silver medal at the 2010 Commonwealth Games Sevens in New Delhi, India. It was in India where Phipps learned of his first Wallabies selection, which allowed him the opportunity to spend six weeks training with the Wallabies squad during that year’s Tri Nations, before earning selection on his first Spring Tour later that year.
He then backed up from his first trip away with the Wallabies in 2010, by rejoining the Australian Sevens team at the conclusion of the trip to play in the end of year tournaments at Dubai (UAE) and George (South Africa).