Why Phil Waugh deserves one last international hurrah

Wycliff Palu’s strain against the USA has opened up a fortuitous door for one old New South Wales veteran. Famed outside Australia for his constant battle for the Wallabies number 7 shirt with George Smith during the last decade, Phil Waugh’s physicality and ability in the tackle have won him plenty of admirers, and rightly so.

It would be quite the fairytale ending to a long career if Waugh was enabled to have one last crack at a Rugby World Cup. The winner of the John Eales Medal back in 2003, the award given to the best player in the Wallaby side over the last year, Waugh’s last cap came against France in Sydney two years ago, but his form has remained consistently very good for the Waratahs in Super Rugby. Furthermore, Waugh is an excellent leader, the type of player who is as important to the squad as he is on the pitch.

If he came into the side, it would give Australia a decidedly more experienced look in the back row, where behind the starting trio of Rocky Elsom, David Pocock and Radike Samo plus the promise of Scott Higginbotham, Australia are not blessed with world class performers. Waugh, much like Lewis Moody for England, is that kind of all-action player who throws himself into everything, be it rucks or bodies. This dedication though is also part of his leadership on the pitch, having captained the Waratahs for years.

More importantly, that level of physicality was a big part of Ireland’s dominance against the Wallabies in their match a couple of weeks ago, and Australia know that if they are going to seriously compete in the knockout stages, that is one area where they have to improve. The most capped player in New South Wales history offers plenty that others fail to match.

One of the many images of Jonny Wilkinson’s drop goal back in 2003 shows Waugh with arms outstretched in the air, his face an excruciating mixture of horror and desperation. He was there again in 2007, when once again the Wallabies crashed out. He would relish one last shot at it. It may seem a bit of an outside bet, but bigger shocks have happened when it comes to selection. If I was Waughy, I’d be waiting by the phone.

by Ben Coles

2 thoughts on “Why Phil Waugh deserves one last international hurrah

  1. Phil certainly is a big presence on the field. The ‘tahs suffered at the breakdown once he was injured earlier this season and missed a lot of rugby.

    I can see the appeal of having Phil, but it won’t happen. He’s just a bit slow these days, he didn’t train as part of the 40 man squad, and Beau Robinson, the Queensland Reds flanker, offers the same physicality on fresher legs.

  2. It will never happen. Phil is an Alpha male of a sort that makes most other Alpha males pale into insignificance. He is trouble in any team in which he is not calling the shots. There was a time when he was destined to be the Australian captain, having captained everything under that from Australian Schoolboys up. Along came the Lions tour and his NSW team went out the weekend before the final and deciding Test in Sydney, and did a job on them. It was brutal stuff, certainly not rugby and several key Lions were injured off. Afterwards when interviewed on TV, with wide manic eyes he said “we did em”, which was a strange thing to say as he had just lost. He was dropped from the NSW captaincy and only got it back about two or three years ago. Inbetween times he was nothing but trouble. No one would want him in a team unless he was captain and he wont be that. Besides he is too slow now days.

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