Wallabies and Waratahs scrumhalf Nick Phipps wants to be part of something ‘special’, a desire that made re-signing with Australian rugby a simple one.
The scrumhalf attracted some overseas interest but eight Tests short of the 60-cap rule, that would have meant sacrificing his Wallabies eligibility and leaving home again, something he wasn’t ready to do.
“When it came down to it now wasn't really the time to go,” he told rugby.com.au on Wednesday.
“Deep down inside me I feel like there's a little bit more that I can give and though there's always that big opportunity to go overseas and take the pressure off and enjoy your footy and really have a good time over there, I guess thinking about what I'd lose out on here was the main determinant for my decision.”
Phipps said the thought of overseas eligibility would not have changed his mind, indebted to the Waratahs, where he has played 50 of his 97 caps and invested in the Wallabies’ future.
“There's so many people that have given me an opportunity and invested a lot of time and done a lot for me and I just felt like I didn't really want to go yet,” - Nick Phipps
“I love it here at the Waratahs, I’m so happy being back in Sydney with my family and friends and I know that Cheik is building a squad that is going to do something pretty special and I'd love to be a part of that,” he said.
After a championship and three seasons with his home state, though, Phipps hasn’t forgotten the faith another franchise showed in him initially.
“I'm always going to be thankful to the Rebels for everything," he said.
“I was picked out of third grade back at Sydney Uni, given an opportunity back then and they gave me such a massive opportunity and people keep saying ‘He’s close to his 100th cap of Super Rugby’ - well, the Rebels gave me 47 of them, that's something I can't really thank them enough for.”
Japan 2019 would be Phipps’ third World Cup, having been backup scrumhalf in 2011 and 2015, and while he wasn’t thinking too far ahead, said a third tournament berth was a major motivating factor.
“I've got to be playing some good footy but that 2019 World Cup, it's a major thing that you can have there as a dream and a focus to work through the next three years.”
His focus now, though, is on growing with the Waratahs and the Wallabies, in tight competition for the nine jersey at both levels, after stellar years from his NSW deputies Matt Lucas and Jake Gordon in 2016.
“It was a roller coaster year last year,” he said.
“(The Wallabies) didn't have that great a June window and then we (were) hit and miss through the year but you sort of get that feeling that every time something happens, you're building towards something else and we are learning. - Nick Phipps
“It's great that you never feel like the team's making the same mistakes or me personally making the same mistakes and knowing full well that if I keep leaning, I'll be playing some great footy and really enjoying the opportunity out there in both the light blue and gold jersey.”
Wallabies coach Michael Cheika, who was also Phipps’ first mentor at the Waratahs praised Phipps’ work ethic on news of his re-signing.
“Nick’s dedication to both New South Wales and Australian Rugby has been outstanding over the last five years. That is why we were so keen for him to stay and play his rugby in Australia.
“He played his 50th cap last year and he's just coming into his prime years as a rugby player so his best is yet to come. - Michael Cheika
“That’s what this decision is about, playing the best rugby of his career in Australia and for Australia.”
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