NSW Waratahs halfback Nick Phipps has welcomed a run of away games for the defending Super Rugby champions after their wretched home start.
With the cricket World Cup taking over the Moore Park precinct for the rest of February and most of March, the Waratahs won’t play at home for five weeks.
Beaten at home by Western Force in their season opener last Sunday, NSW face away games against the Rebels, Reds and Highlanders.
“If anything, it’s quite good we get a load of our away games out early in the season,” Phipps said.
“There’s nothing better than being on the road and grouping together with the boys without any external distractions out there.
“It’s good that we will be able to get in and start forming those bonds in the rooms and the team room away on the road and get that tight sort of feeling amongst ourselves.”
While the Reds, Brumbies and even the Force have longer established rivalries with the Waratahs, the Rebels – who NSW face in Melbourne on Friday – have already developed plenty of passion for their clashes.
“When I was down there, it was always about playing NSW,” said Phipps, who spent three years with the Rebels.
“They will be firing up, This is their traditional big game.
“They will be happy to be playing at home at their self-appointed stockade and we’ll have to be on our guns to hold them out.”
Phipps hit out at people who criticised NSW coach Michael Cheika for doing both the Waratahs and Wallabies coaching jobs, and said their mentor was wrong to take the blame for last week’s loss.
“It was pretty unfair for him to be able to say that it was his fault and then people asking him questions about the dual role and is that affecting his coaching,” Phipps said.
“Thats absolutely rubbish. You can’t really coach too much about blokes dropping the ball cold and not having the intent to get there.
“It’s not his fault.”
With last week’s starting Rebels halfback Nic Stirzaker suspended, Phipps could this Friday directly oppose his former Sydney University clubmate and fellow Wallabies halfback Luke Burgess.
“When I was a younger fellow in the third grade colts, I always used to look up to Burgo, so it will be a good matchup there. We get on quite well, so we’ll be pushing each other,” Phipps said.