RugbyPass first reported on Phipps’ potential signing for the Reading-based side last month, and now he, along with Waratahs teammate Rona, will depart for England following his Super Rugby and Wallabies commitments for 2019.
“It was a really tough decision to make the move away from New South Wales,” said 30-year-old halfback Phipps in a statement on the Waratahs’ website.
“I’ve loved my time in the sky blue jersey and I’ve got so much pride for the teams I’ve been lucky enough to represent, from schoolboys to club as well as for the State and the Wallabies.
“It’s a really big year ahead with the NSW Waratahs and the Wallabies though, so I’m solely focused on throwing everything I’ve got into this Super Rugby season.”
Since his international debut in 2011, Phipps has played second fiddle to long-serving Wallabies teammate Will Genia, starting just 29 of his 71 test appearances.
He has, however, been a mainstay in the Waratahs’ set-up since joining from the Melbourne Rebels in their title-winning season in 2014, amassing 74 of his 121 Super Rugby caps with the New South Wales club.
Phipps should still be available in Wallabies contention while in England due to Australia’s overseas selection policy, whereby players with more than 60 test caps are still available to be picked.
The same cannot be said for rugby league convert Rona, who has won just three test caps since his debut against New Zealand in 2017.
Nevertheless, the 26-year-old said he remains focused on his Super Rugby duties for the upcoming season.
“I am excited about the season ahead because I know what we are capable of,” he said.
“I cannot wait for our first competition game and see a full house at Brookvale Oval.
“I feel I am a better player from when I first started, I have learnt a lot but I am at a stage of my career where I have been offered the opportunity to take my young family to a new environment.”
London Irish currently sit atop of the RFU Championship standings with 12 wins from 13 matches, and look on track to earn promotion into the Premiership for the 2019/20 season.
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