Nick Phipps will miss the Waratahs’ match on the weekend against the Chiefs but NSW coach Daryl Gibson believes “he’ll be fine” for the Wallabies’ first Test against Fiji in Melbourne.
The Waratahs were initially optimistic about Phipps’ chances of starting at halfback for their must-win match, but Gibson has now brought in Jake Gordon.
Phipps, who left the field in the 51st minute with an ankle injury in the Waratahs’ 16-point loss to the Highlanders, flew back to Sydney on Thursday for more scans.
There is a small chance Phipps has syndesmosis, an injury that would keep him out for longer period, however Gibson said the information he received indicated the Australian halfback would be back sooner rather than later.
“Our doctor said he just ran out of time,” Gibson said. “I think he’ll be fine for next week. It’s a more a 10-day injury and he just ran out of time. We’ll get those scans to just rule that [syndesmosis] out.”
Phipps will join the Wallabies in Melbourne on Sunday and his problematic ankle shortens the odds on Brumbies young gun Joe Powell making his Test debut off the bench, providing Will Genia is given the all clear to start against Fiji.
Should Phipps be ruled out for a longer period, he could be replaced in the Wallabies squad by Gordon, a player who has been ahead of Phipps in the pecking order for the Waratahs at different stages this year.
When asked if he was surprised Gordon, the Waratahs’ second-leading try-scorer, did not get picked in the Australian squad, Gibson replied: “I’m sure he was in consideration and so it’s a real positive that I’m sure he’s been talked about in that light.
“I’m sure selection and higher honours aren’t too far away for him.”
Gibson was adamant Phipps’ late withdrawal wouldn’t have an effect on the side given Gordon has actually started more often for NSW this year.
The other major change to the Waratahs’ team is the inclusion of Jack Dempsey, who makes his return to Super Rugby after two months out with a broken foot.
Dempsey returned to football last week in the Shute Shield, getting through 35 minutes of work for Gordon before flying across to join the Waratahs in Queenstown, where they have been training this week.
The 23-year-old has played next to no football this season, making him a bolter in Michael Cheika’s Wallabies squad.
Saturday will his only chance to impress in a match situation before going into Wallabies camp and pushing for a bench spot for perhaps either the Scotland or Italy Tests.
“For Jack, in only his second game back, it’s really a case of him finding his match fitness again,” Gibson said. “You do that by playing. I expect him to get 20-25 minutes off the bench.
“He’s a player of enormous potential and promise and so having only just come back from injury I’m sure they’ll work with him in the June period and see where he can get to. That’s a position if you look around Australia, a [number] six, it’s a real opportunity for both Ned [Hanigan] and Jack to stake a claim there.”
Waratahs (1-15): Tom Robertson, Tolu Latu, Sekope Kepu, Dean Mumm, Will Skelton, Ned Hanigan, Michael Hooper, Michael Wells, Jake Gordon, Bernard Foley, Cam Clark, David Horwitz, Rob Horne, Taqele Naiyaravoro, Israel Folau
Reserves: Damien Fitzpatrick, Paddy Ryan, Angus Ta’avao, David McDuling, Jed Holloway, Jack Dempsey, Matt Lucas, Bryce Hegarty
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