Matt Philip isn’t turning his back on Australian rugby with his move to France but is doing it to improve his chances of becoming a regular Wallaby.
The Melbourne Rebels starter has signed with Top 14 club Pau but wants to add to his three Test caps before his departure, particularly with second-row stocks critically low in Australia.
The 26-year-old said he’d been in regular contact with new Wallabies coach Dave Rennie, who had been giving him feedback on his game.
Philip hasn’t been able to break back into the Australian side since making his debut in 2017 and said he hoped getting some experience in European rugby would give him an edge.
He said the move was more about adding to his game than to his bank balance.
— RugbyPass (@RugbyPass) July 7, 2020
“I’m going for a short stint overseas but I am available for all of the Super Rugby competition and all Test matches this year,” Philip said on Tuesday.
“I’m hoping to come back at the end of next year’s Super Rugby season and will be available for next year’s Test matches.
“I’m hoping I will put in a good enough performance that they will want to keep me for the long term but in the short term I’m going to get a bit of experience overseas.
“Hopefully it gives me a point of difference around my forward play as it’s a pretty tough old competition over there so I think it’s going to benefit me.”
Before that Philip is focused on helping the nomadic Rebels win Super Rugby AU.
The Rebels fell short 31-23 in their round one clash with the Brumbies in Canberra last Saturday night.
Already out of coronavirus hotspot Melbourne, the team will move from their Canberra training base to Sydney on Wednesday and “host” Queensland Reds on Friday night at NRL ground, Brookvale Oval, on the northern beaches.
It’s a homecoming for Philip, who went to school across the road from the ground and said they would sneak over at lunchtimes to play touch football.
Philip said the players weren’t sure whether they would remain in Sydney beyond the game but with Melbourne returning to Stage 3 lockdown on Wednesday, they are unable to return home for the bye week.
– Melissa Woods
Sign up to our mailing list for a weekly digest from the wide world of rugby.Sign Up Now