Wallabies' halfback battle set to be intense

BEN HORNE
Last updated 15:02 05/03/2014
Will Genia
Getty Images
GENIA CHALLENGE: The battle for the Wallabies halfback role is shaping as the most intense in years.

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The battle for the Wallabies halfback role is shaping as the most intense in years following Luke Burgess' impressive return from France.

Incumbent Will Genia can ill afford another form dip like that which cost him his spot for two Tests last year, with fellow capped No.9s Burgess, Nic White and Nick Phipps all challenging in the run toward the 2015 Rugby World Cup.

Burgess' aggressive running game, a key factor in the Melbourne Rebels' handsome Super Rugby season-opening win over the Cheetahs, is sure to have caught Wallabies coach Ewen McKenzie's eye.

White, a slick allround organiser and performer for the Brumbies, was Genia's back up and occasional replacement under McKenzie in 2013.

And Phipps, the back up under former coach Robbie Deans, looks set to present a renewed challenge following his move from the Rebels to the in-form Waratahs, where he's sparkled behind a steamrolling forward pack.

As Phipps summed up the halfback battle: "Thank God (Western Force halfback) Alby Mathewson is a Kiwi."

But Phipps is following same sage advice from McKenzie as the best way to press his claims.

"There's so much competition, which is why Ewen is talking about how much he wants the (Super Rugby) teams to perform well and then selections will come off the back of that," said Phipps.

"Hopefully I can just keep chipping in for the 'Tahs doing the best I can and getting a few more wins on the board. Then hopefully things will take care of itself.

"It's funny seeing people already talking about how they want to make the Wallabies.

"That's an absolute dream for me and everyone, but at the moment we're only round two of 16 (in Super Rugby).

Phipps was forced out of Melbourne due to Burgess' return to Australian rugby, but has described it as a blessing in disguise.

With the monster Waratahs pack surging forward and his combinations with playmakers Bernard Foley and Kurtley Beale also blossoming, Phipps has backed himself with his running game to great success - cutting through the Queensland Reds last Saturday night.

"I've always loved running the ball," he said. "I want to keep the team on the front foot."

Phipps still nominated Genia as the Wallabies halfback benchmark, despite outpointing the Queenslander in the Waratahs' record 32-5 win at ANZ Stadium.

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