The Wallabies will be able to call on the services of Matt Philip for the 2021 international season after the second-rower inked a two-and-a-half-year deal to return to Australian rugby.
Philip, who started in every one of the Wallabies’ six Tests last year, has been playing for French club Pau in 2021, but has recommitted to returning home with an eye on the 2023 Rugby World Cup.
The 27-year-old will be available for selection in this year’s Tests before rejoining the Melbourne Rebels for the 2022 and 2023 seasons.
“I’m looking forward to giving something back to the club,” Philip said in a statement on Thursday afternoon.
“Without the Rebels and the people involved in the environment, I definitely wouldn’t be in the position I am today. I want to achieve some club goals and bring home some silverware.
“The Top 14 has been a great opportunity for growth both on and off the field. A lot of games are in cold, wet weather and against some big bodies so as a tight five forward, it’s definitely helped me improve and grow my game.
“France has obviously been in lockdown since I arrived, so this has forced me to also develop and mature, becoming a more well-rounded person off the field.
“I feel like I’ve only just got started within the Wallabies environment. I have a lot to give so if provided the opportunity I won’t take a backwards step.”
Philip’s return is the second major signing Rugby Australia have made to bolster the Wallabies’ second-row stocks of late, after Izack Rodda announced he would be joining the Western Force last month.
Lock had been arguably the side’s biggest area of concern last year due to the post-World Cup departures of Rory Arnold and Adam Coleman, but with Rodda and Philip returning and Rebels youngster Trevor Hosea developing nicely, the second row no longer appears quite the same problem area it once was.
“It will be great to have Matt back in Australia. He was a standout for the Wallabies last year and has grown as a player during his brief stint in France,” Rugby AU director of rugby Scott Johnson said.
“Matt’s return will add further competition to our second-row stocks this year and as we keep on the journey to the Rugby World Cup in 2023.
“Matt is one of a number of overseas-based Australians who are interested in returning home. Each have said they want to play in our Super Rugby competition and are desperate to pull on the gold jersey.
“They know what we’re building ahead of the World Cup in France and the level of talent in this current group.”
The Wallabies are scheduled to play current Six Nations runners-up France in a July series this year, with the Bledisloe Cup and Rugby Championship to follow.