Wallabies and Waratahs halfback Nick Phipps will start for Sydney Uni for the first time since their 2013 premiership, but he didn’t force his way into the team.
Phipps was among eight Waratahs who played last weekend against the Hurricanes to be released to club rugby this weekend, but he put the final decision in the hands of Uni coach Tim Davidson.
“He called me just to say that he had been released but also said that if it was going to be too much of a distraction or it wasn’t worth him coming back then he understood that as well,” Davidson said.
“I just explained to him that his experience and showing the young kids that he wants to come back and contribute to his club was a message that you can’t just manufacture.”
The 27-year-old trained with Uni on Thursday night, after missing Tuesday’s session because of Wallabies camp, but that was enough to hand him the starting spot, that has produced two of the Waratahs’ regular nines in recent times, with Jake Gordon making his mark in Super Rugby this season.
Davidson, a former Force and Rebels player now firmly entrenched in the grassroots, also urged the ARU to ensure the money saved by cutting a Super Rugby team would have a positive impact.
“Yes, it’s disappointing that we have to go down to four teams but if that’s a necessary measure to save grassroots and to save the game in the long run then I guess that’s the difficult decision that had to be made,” he said.
“I don’t necessarily agree with it but I can affiliate with it if that’s the driving nature of the decision.
“When you see players like Matt Hodgson who’ve poured 12,13,14 years into the Western Force, to see them potentially on the ropes, that’s where everyone gets lost in the emotion of the decision rather than looking at the facts and the numbers that are driving it.”
Davidson said any benefits to grassroots would be about more than just extra cash flow.
“Money helps but it’s not the only solution,” he said
“It’ll obviously drive attendance and exposure but fundamentally if you look back to when the game’s gone professional, it’s started to decline. Money hasn’t been a necessarily a good thing for it.
“I hope that if it does flow through that it’s actually about promoting the values of the game and the lessons that young men can learn from it because that’s the most attractive element that the game can actually provide.”
Uni will have the services of 2010 premiership player Dave McDuling as well as Phipps on Saturday, with Waratahs back Andrew Kellaway at 13 for Randwick.
Irae Simone has been named at 12 for Norths, with Bryce Hegarty also returning, while Jed Holloway will also be in the 23 for Southern Districts on Friday.
Mack Mason and Ryan McCauley will be in action for Easts against Eastwood, with Hugh Roach at hooker and Damien Fitzpatrick on the other side.
David Lolohea will play for Parramatta with rookie lock Senio Toleafoa, against Manly, with Matt Lucas at halfback.
Rookies Maclean Jones and Harry Jones will be in action for Warringah against Penrith.