London calling – why I’m making the move to international rugby

London calling – why I’m making the move to international rugby, by Nick Phipps

There’s certainly plenty to be said for growing up in the greatest country in the world, Australia, and having the ability to pursue your chosen sport to its highest level. Yet there’s also a good case to be made for embracing change when it’s the right time to do so.

As anyone who knows me understands, I’m a proud Aussie and always will be. I have captained my country on the rugby field, been state club captain of the Waratahs and will hopefully represent Australia at my third World Cup this year. It has been an extremely fortuitous career so far.

Some people may be surprised to hear that at the end of the 2019 rugby season, I will be packing up and heading to England with my wife, Ebony, who is currently pregnant with our first child, to set up a new home and play for the London Irish club who are currently in the RFU Championship Cup.

The ability to do what I love in a different part of the world is incredibly appealing. Every time I have been lucky enough to play in England over the past decade, I have loved it there. The atmosphere, the fans, the facilities and yes, even the weather!

I consider this to be the perfect time for such a move. Professionally, I have had similar offers in the past, but chose to stay in Australia where I felt a sense of unfinished business. Above all, I wanted to be loyal to the businesses that have been so loyal to me. Now, following one last season that I can hang my hat on and be proud of what I have accomplished here, it’s time to change things up.

Just as importantly, all being well, Ebony and I will be first-time parents by the time we land in London. Yes, going on tour and being able to experience new things, countries and cultures has been one of the greatest gifts of professional sport, but ultimately means a lot of travel. Last year I was away from home for 240 days of the year, a roster that puts a lot of strain on young families. I want to be there for as many of my family’s little milestones as possible. A few of the older blokes say that after a while you will be looking forward to a little tour a few decent nights sleep!

Talking to my mate Rob Horne who had a season with Northampton Saints, in the English competition, if they play a game in the furthest part of England, they bus straight back afterwards. For the stage of life I’m at now, that is a really enticing factor. And Eb having an Irish passport was another reason why this decision made a lot of sense.

I started in the Australian Sevens for a year-and-a-bit as a young bloke who got the greatest break of his life. The season coming will be my ninth in super rugby. During that time I’ve played more than 115 professional games, including 71 Tests with the Wallabies, and been part of the leadership team with both the ‘Tahs and the Wallabies, culminating in captaining the Wallabies in an international versus the Barbarians in 2017.

I can’t express how much fun I have had over those seasons – the difficult years just as much as the successful ones. Every season has taught me something different, and I count myself truly lucky to have trained and played with many incredibly talented players through those years, but more importantly incredibly great people. I have grown incredibly as a person playing rugby in this great country.

Like many though, you want to experience all the great things about the game and sometimes difficult decisions are necessary. I will depart feeling that I have done my bit to build the culture of the Waratahs and represented my country with pride, and move on with no regrets. In my mind though, that moves all 9 months, a Super Rugby title and a World Cup away…..