When Matt Philip last played for the Wallabies in 2017 he was a raw rookie, admitting he was along for the ride.
Making his Test debut against Japan en route to the UK where he gained his other two caps, Philip was considered a bolter after only playing 13 Super Rugby games.
But with a further three Melbourne seasons under his belt, the self-confessed “late bloomer” says he’s now much better prepared.
He plans to add to that experience with a one-season stint in France early next year before returning to again push for Test selection in 2021.
“To be back part of the Wallabies squad is unreal, it’s really exciting for me and I’ve worked hard to try and get back here,” the 26-year-old said on Thursday.
“I’m a bit older, more experienced now so I really think I can add to the group in a positive way.
“I feel a lot more confident to speak my mind, especially around set-piece and lineout time whereas back in 2017 I was pretty new to the whole Wallabies and Super Rugby environment so I kind of took a back seat and went for the ride.”
Philip is competing with veteran Rob Simmons, Lukhan Salakaia-Loto, Ned Hanigan and his rookie Rebels teammate Trevor Hosea for a start in the opening Bledisloe Cup in Wellington on October 11.
Foreign-based locks Rory Arnold, Will Skelton and Izack Rodda could also come into the frame to be called up for the Rugby Championship starting in November.
While he has found his voice, Phillip is also enjoying the feedback under the new Wallabies coaching regime of Dave Rennie in their camp in the Hunter Valley.
He said he was enjoying the “transparency”, which was a notable difference from former coach Michael Cheika.
“There’s a lot of transparency between the coaches and the players in regards to how you’re going and what they expect of you,” he said.
“That’s been really impressive and what I’ve really noticed in the first couple of days.
“They are really open with their communication.”
The Wallabies will head to New Zealand on a charter flight on Friday night and quarantine for three days before commencing team training.
– Melissa Woods
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