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Wallabies halfback Nick Phipps will make his first appearance of the Super Rugby season after being named on the NSW bench for Saturday night’s clash with Queensland in Sydney.
Phipps has been frustrated by a nagging calf injury but is certain to get game time at the SCG as the Waratahs chase a fourth-straight win.
The classy No.9 convinced coach Daryl Gibson he was finally ready for a call-up with an impressive hat-trick in Sydney University’s 36-12 Shute Shield over Parramatta last Saturday.
“It’s been a long, hard road for him. He’s had to six to eight weeks of nearly being there and he’s finally passed fit,” Gibson said on Wednesday.
“He had a good trot last week with Sydney Uni and I think he’s ready.”
Otherwise unchanged from last week’s 50-29 bonus-point victory over the Sunwolves in Tokyo, the Waratahs have an opportunity to complete a rare season sweep over their Australian conference rivals having already beaten the Brumbies and Melbourne Rebels.
Not that Gibson says the Tahs – who trail the conference-leading Rebels by a point on the table – need any extra incentive to topple the Reds.
“We’re treating each game as they come and we know this is against one of our traditional rivals,” he said.
“There’s no real added motivation needed for this week. It’s a game the boys are really excited to get the opportunity to play.”
Despite making their best start to a campaign in almost a decade, Gibson says the Waratahs are far from the finished product.
“Defensively we still are conceding far too many tries, particularly putting a lot of pressure on ourselves through our own poor ball control at times,” he said.
“That’s something we’ve talked about a lot.
“We always knew the Sunwolves were going to be a difficult proposition and the fact that they have got an excellent attack they played with a lot of variation and without risk.
“We’re steeling ourselves for what is going to be a very physical encounter.
“We see both teams really trying to transform themselves into really competitive teams and that’s what we’re expecting this weekend.
NSW Waratahs: Bryce Hegarty, Alex Newsome, Curtis Rona, Kurtley Beale, Taqele Naiyaravoro, Bernard Foley, Jake Gordon, Michael Wells, Michael Hooper (capt), Will Miller, Rob Simmons, Ned Hanigan, Sekope Kepu, Damien Fitzpatrick, Tom Robertson. Reserves: Hugh Roach, Harry Johnson-Holmes, Paddy Ryan, Tom Staniforth, Jed Holloway, Nick Phipps, Lalakai Foketi, Cameron Clark.