RaboDirect Rebels halfback Nick Phipps has been named to start in this week’s Rugby Championships clash against Argentina on the Gold Coast.
With Will Genia last weekend becoming the third Wallaby captain for the year to have been sidelined by injury, Phipps steps up for what will be his fifth Test appearance, but just his second starting role.
First introduced to the Wallabies on the 2010 Spring Tour, Phipps made his Test debut a year later against Samoa, but had featured just three times prior to replacing Genia at the back end of last week’s gripping 26-19 win over South Africa which retained for Australia the Mandela Challenge Plate.
“Nick’s had a good grounding, knows our method and has worked hard,” Qantas Wallabies coach Robbie Deans says.
“He has a great work ethic, is a quality bloke to have in the group as his enthusiasm is infectious, and has handled everything that has been thrown at him as a Test player - including a run as a replacement wing during last year’s Rugby World Cup.
“He’s ready to go.”
While Phipps gets his chance in the run-on side, fellow Rebels star Kurtley Beale moves from the starting XV to the bench, with Berrick Barnes moving from inside centre to fullback to accommodate the return of regular inside centre Pat McCabe.
The hard-running Brumbies midfielder completed 30 minutes of club play in the Canberra Grand Final last weekend to get him fit for this assignment after being forced to watch the opening three Tests of The Castrol EDGE Rugby Championship due to a stress fracture in his foot.
Beale, who started from fullback against the Springboks, moves to the bench where his versatility offers maximum game-breaking impact.
“Berrick has good grounding at the back while his ability to take just about every point-scoring opportunity on offer [with his goal-kicking] was highlighted once again last weekend,” Deans says.
“His presence provides good balance to the backline, while giving us the opportunity to throw Kurtley in where he will be at his most dangerous, against a tiring defensive line as the game opens up and he can get out there with a license to play.
A new captain and a new second row combination are also features of the Qantas Wallabies side named for Saturday night’s Test against Argentina in The Castrol EDGE Rugby Championship.
Local product Nathan Sharpe fittingly takes the captaincy reins for what will be the first Test match to have been played on the Gold Coast, as Skilled Park becomes just the eighth home venue for the Qantas Wallabies, and the second to have been introduced this year following the June Test against Scotland at Hunter Stadium in Newcastle.
The 34-year-old, who guided the Western Force through its first six years as skipper, and has twice previously led the Qantas Wallabies in Tests in 2004 (versus New Zealand) and 2005 (versus Samoa), on Saturday night plays his 109th Test, but the first in his home town.
“It’s rare when you have played at this level for as long as I have to come across something totally new, but to play a Test in my home town is something I would never have imagined happening when I started,” Sharpe says.
“To have the privilege of leading Australia in the first ever Test to be played on the Gold Coast is an experience I will always treasure. But the memory is down the track. For now, it’s important we keep our focus as a team, build on what we achieved last weekend in Perth, and add to that momentum.
“No one else in the squad has played Argentina before but I have and they will be tough, incredibly passionate and uncompromising. You only have to look at what they have achieved to date in their tournament matches to see what a threat they will be.”
Adding to the novel flavour of the evening, Sharpe will have a new second row partner after a hamstring injury ruled out last week’s man of the match from the Perth Test Sitaleki Timani. His NSW Waratahs team-mate Kane Douglas has been called on to take his maiden bow in Test rugby.
The addition of Douglas is the only change to the starting pack from that which subdued the Springbok eight last weekend, although the Wallabies have again opted for additional mobility by including two loose forwards among their run on forward substitutes.
These are last weekend’s try-scorer Scott Higginbotham and Liam Gill, who both made a big impression after they entered the fray at Paterson’s Stadium.
Los Pumas arrived on the Gold Coast last Sunday for what will be Argentina’s first appearance in Australia since the 2003 Rugby World Cup.
That tournament opened with an 8-23 loss to Australia in what was the most recent Test match between the two countries. Sharpe is the only Wallaby survivor from that occasion.
While winless to date in The Castrol EDGE Rugby Championship, Los Pumas have made both of their opponents uncomfortable, with the competition newcomers making most of the running in a 16-all draw with South Africa at Mendoza last month, before giving the All Blacks a scare for much of last weekend’s Test in Wellington which was eventually lost 21-5.
The Qantas Wallabies team to play Argentina on Saturday in The Castrol EDGE Rugby Championship at Skilled Park on the Gold Coast (kick-off: 8pm AEST) is:
15. Berrick Barnes
14. Dominic Shipperley
13. Adam Ashley-Cooper
12. Pat McCabe
11. Digby Ioane
10. Quade Cooper
9. Nick Phipps
8. Radike Samo
7. Michael Hooper
6. Dave Dennis
5. Nathan Sharpe (captain)
4. Kane Douglas
3. Ben Alexander
2. Tatafu Polota Nau
1. Benn Robinson
Run on Reserves:
16. Stephen Moore or Saia Fainga’a
17. James Slipper
18. Scott Higginbotham
19. Liam Gill
20. Brett Sheehan
21. Anthony Fainga’a
22. Kurtley Beale
ACT Brumbies or Queensland Reds
Australia v Argentina – Historical Notes
- Australia and Argentina have met on 17 previous occasions in Test matches, with the Qantas Wallabies winning 12 of these, Los Pumas four, while the two teams drew 19-19 at Buenos Aires in 1987.
- This will be Argentina’s first appearance on Australian soil since the 2003 Rugby World Cup where Los Pumas featured in the tournament’s opening match against the hosts.
- Argentina’s maiden appearance on Australian soil came in Queensland 29 years ago, with the visitors being inspired by their legendary flyhalf Hugo Porta as they caused a major upset in beating the Wallabies 18-3 at Ballymore in Brisbane. Australia recovered from the shock to take the second Test of that series.
- Los Pumas have now played nine Tests in Australia but have been unable to add to that win on debut.
Australia v Argentina in Australia
1983: Argentina 18, Australia 3
1983: Australia 29, Argentina 13
1986: Australia 39, Argentina 19
1986: Australia 26, Argentina 0
1995: Australia 53, Argentina 7
1995: Australia 30, Argentina 13
2000: Australia 53, Argentina 6
2000: Australia 32, Argentina 25
2003: Australia 24, Argentina 8 (RWC)
Skilled Park, Gold Coast – Background Notes
- The Gold Coast will become the 11th city to have hosted Test matches in Australia, and the eighth home Test venue for the Qantas Wallabies. Up until this year, Australia’s home Test matches have been the exclusive domain of the country’s six largest cities: Sydney, Melbourne, Brisbane, Perth, Canberra and Adelaide. Newcastle became home venue number seven for the Hopetoun Cup Test against Scotland earlier in the year. Gosford, Townsville and Launceston all hosted Test matches during the 2003 Rugby World Cup, although these did not feature the Wallabies
- Was constructed between 2006 and 2008 by the same company that rebuilt Brisbane’s Suncorp Stadium. Like Suncorp, Skilled Park is owned by the Queensland State Government under the banner of Queensland Stadiums Ltd.
- Hosted its first rugby international last year when the Australian Barbarians beat Canada 38-14 in a Rugby World Cup warm-up match.
- Last year became the venue for the Gold Coast Sevens – Fever Pitch tournament, the Australian leg of the International Rugby Board Sevens circuit.
- Is the home venue for the Gold Coast Titans rugby league team in the NRL and also hosted the now defunct Gold Coast United in Australia’s A-League domestic football competition.
- Also hosts the annual rugby league All-stars game at the start of each season.