Family helped Slipper back onto Test path

The Rugby Championship
Beth Newman Profile
by Beth Newman

James Slipper says it was his family and friends who helped pull him out of a "dark place" in the past year and put  him on the track to return to the Wallabies side for the first time in almost three years.

Slipper will start for the Wallabies for the first time since 2016 when he runs out at Ellis Park on Sunday (AEST) and he will be embracing every moment after a turbulent two seasons.

An achilles injury suffered in 2017 ended his hopes of a Test berth in that season and then in 2018, Slipper twice tested positive to cocaine..

Slipper was suspended for two months after those positive tests and he was left without a Super Rugby club after Reds coach Brad Thorn said he would not be a part of the side going forward.

The Brumbies gave him a second Super Rugby chance and the 30-year-old said it was his family who helped turn his outlook around, as he got back on the path to a Test berth.

"I'd have to say my parents and my two brothers, the people close to me and who influenced me the most through a pretty dark period of time," he said.

"But also on a positive note, going down to Canberra and changing up scenery was really good, a new look on how to play the game with the Brumbies and I went down there with a goal to contribute to the club, and I ended up playing every game, very trial game so that was one goal that I really wanted to strike.

"I think just my enjoyment playing rugby has come back a lot, I'm really loving my rugby at the moment and I think that's really important to perform.

"That's probably the biggest thing I've taken away from it. Obviously, the family around me and my partner as well, the support they've shown me that's pretty much why I'm back in."

It was Wallabies coach Michael Cheika who gave Slipper is first taste of high level rugby after his suspension, naming him in last year's Bledisloe trial before he played for NRC side Queensland Country in the back end of the year.

Cheika said Slipper was a player that he leaned on when he first became Wallabies coach back at the end of 2014 and he was glad to have the 86-Test prop back in the group.

"When I first came into this team as a coach, Slips was a player that I really counted on, I think, for his honesty and the way he approached everything," he said.

"I really enjoyed coaching him and to have him back in the squad and now back in the team has given me a lot of pleasure, so really looking forward to what he brings.

"He's had a good season with the Brumbies, no doubt about it."

Slipper was one of the Brumbies' best in 2019, fighting it out with Scott Sio for the starting Super Rugby spot, and now his focus is on ensuring he repays the faith that both club and country have shown him.

"It's definitely humbling, there was a point there where I probably didn't see it happening and that's probably what makes it special," he said.

"I don’t' really want to go too far, I want to go out there and just play well, do my job for the team.

"I think that's the best way I can pay back Cheik and the selectors."

Slipper said he was looking forward to going head-to-head with the Springboks this weekend.

"I think back over the past and I've played them a few times, it's always been a pretty tough game, big physical players especially in the forwards," he said.

"I've played some really good games against the Africans.

"I'm sure this week's going to be no different, it's going to be tough. I'm just really excited to be back in the team, back in the squad.

"There's a good belief in the team, the boys are pretty committed to getting the job done so just got to go out there and play our game."

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