White ready to prove his World Cup worth

The Rugby Championship
Beth Newman Profile
by Beth Newman

Wallabies halfback Nic White showed he meant business when he walked away from the second year of an English Premiership contract in favour of fighting for a World Cup spot but the Exeter no. 9 knows it will take more than a big gesture to earn his Japan ticket.

White returned to Australia almost three weeks ago to train with the Wallabies squad, after signing a deal with Rugby Australia that made him eligible to return to the Test stage.

That decision came after months of conversations with Rugby AU’s high performance manager Ben Whitaker and Wallabies coach Michael Cheika about the possibility of White returning to the Wallabies fold, something that he always had in the back of his mind.

While the thought of returning to Australia was always something he felt he would do eventually, White had last year inked a two-year deal with Premiership heavyweights Exeter, running through to 2021.

That commitment meant any Wallabies comeback would take some cooperation from Exeter before it even got off the ground.

Nic White is desperate to prove himself in Wallabies camp. Photo: RUGBY.com.au/Stuart Walmsley“The plan was to always to come home. I just had a few things I wanted to do in Europe and to experience that, and also show there were other parts to my game and I think I did that," he said.

“I thought it would be probably something post-World Cup with the exodus but when the chance to go to a World Cup came about, I made a few calls.

“Obviously Exeter had to help out and they were happy to so here I am giving it a crack.”

White said he felt that decision alone proved how much even a chance at playing in the tournament meant, especially after missing out in 2015, but admitted that gesture would only go so far.

“I think I've already shown how much it means ,” he said.

“I asked Exeter, a place I really enjoy and love playing at, to release me out of the last year of my contract to come home to chase this.

“I think I've shown how much I really want it but there's probably 70-80 guys in Australian rugby who really want it.

“If given it, I'll take it with both hand,s but obviously there's a lot of water still to go under the bridge between now and a World Cup with squad changes and all sorts of things.”

White said it was still somewhat “surreal” to be back in the Wallabies for the first time since the second Bledisloe Test in 2015.

“It's been a bit surreal, something I probably, at a point, thought was never going to happen again,” he said.

“Coming back in I just pinch myself some mornings that I'm back."

Will Genia, Joe Powell and White have been given the first crack at proving themselves in the Rugby Championship, with fellow halfback contenders, NSW duo Nick Phipps and Jake Gordon missing out.

White expects the pair back in Australia will be as fired up as anyone to push their way back into the squad, making this chance even more important.

“It's only good for the jersey when you have a number of guys fighting for that spot,” he said.

“They'll also be training hard and playing hard and with an opportunity they'll be trying to take it like Willy, Joey and myself too.

“Again, it's about the team, about the jersey, and no one has got it.

“The more guys fighting for all positions the better it is for the Wallabies.”

The Wallabies take on South Africa in Johannesburg on Saturday July 20, kicking off at 5:05pm local, Sunday 1:05am AEST, LIVE on FOX SPORTS and Kayo.