Arguably the flag ship for the modern day use of the bench, JAMES SLIPPER has proved himself a key member of the Qantas Wallabies match night squad despite making over three-quarters of his Test appearances as a run on substitute.Last term saw a continuation of the practice, with Slipper making his entry mid-stream on nine of the 12 occasions where he made Test appearances. In each instance, he brought his customary work rate around the field, most notably in defence where his tackle counts almost always rivaled the work load’s maintained by the loose forwards.The under-rated 24-year-old, who continues to develop in the technical aspects of his trade as a prop, playing on both sides of the scrum, has played 26 of his 34 Tests as a replacement. This statistic includes a world record first 13 Tests, with his maiden start not coming until he gained his 14th cap, when Australia beat Italy at Florence at the end of his first season in 2010.A former Australian Under-20 Player of the Year, Slipper was the ‘feel good’ story of his maiden Test season, coming from the Queensland Reds Academy to feature in all but one of the Qantas Wallabies’ Tests in his debut season. The Slipper ability to function as both a tight and a loose-head prop positioned him in the right place at the right time to take advantage of fellow ‘duel gaited’ front-rower Ben Alexander’s medial ligament injury at the start of the 2010 Test season.Although primarily a loose-head at that point of his career, Slipper acquitted himself well in what was a grueling Test introduction alongside a greenhorn Wallaby front-row. He has since largely specialized on the tight-head side for the Queensland Reds in Super Rugby, while providing back up on both sides of the Wallaby front-row.For all of the warm fuzzy of his opening year, Slipper then endured disappointment two years later, being forced to miss out on both Queensland’s run to its maiden Super Rugby title, and then Australia’s first Tri Nations title for a decade; due to a syndesmosis (ankle) strain. He made it back in time to feature in all seven matches played by Australia at his maiden Rugby World Cup, starting in three of those, before then featuring in the two matches on Australia’s brief Spring Tour that closed out 2011.Significantly, as a pointer to his future in the Test arena, Slipper was employed as Australia’s starting loosehead during the wins over the Barbarians and Wales on the 2011 Spring Tour, and then again in the appalling conditions that marred last year’s opening Test of the season against Scotland at Newcastle. That Test was one of just three where Slipper started, in all instances being placed on the loose-head side of the scrum for his run on performances.A product of the Gold Coast, where his family still lives; Slipper was Australia’s Under-20 Player of the Year in 2009, but had played just three matches for Queensland, and started just one, when he was selected for the Australian Barbarians to play in the midweek series against England in 2010. He was included largely for development purposes, but seized his chance in a big way once Alexander was ruled out.Slipper made his Test debut off the bench against England in Perth on a difficult night for the Wallaby scrum where the squad’s five front rower’s between them boasted just three previous Test caps. That experience was the start of a steep learning curve which also included a first ever visit to South Africa where he featured in the final 59 minutes of Australia’s dramatic 41-39 win over the Springboks at Bloemfontein, the Wallabies’ first win on the high veldt in the Republic for 47 years. Slipper ended his maiden Test season as Australia’s starting loosehead prop in the remarkable 59-16 demolition of the then Six Nations champions France in Paris. That game was his 13th of the 14 Tests played by the Wallabies in his freshman year as a Test player.Fast Fact: Such was the youth in the Wallabies and Australian Barbarians squads for the 2010 programme, James Slipper was one of three players to celebrate his 21st birthday within a week of the 40-man group being named. The others were hooker Damien Fitzpatrick and lock Kane Douglas. All three appeared during the Barbarians’ 28-28 draw with England at Perth.
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21 MAY 2013