Wallabies lock, Matt Philip, credits his new-found physical maturity and the valuable experience gained over five seasons of Super Rugby action, as the two key catalysts behind his impressive Bledisloe Cup form.
The twenty-six-year-old has been one of Australia’s most consistent players over the opening two tests, impressing onlookers with his enormous work rate, his improving work at the set-piece and his ability to push the ball forward.
Philip puts his strong opening form down to feeling more comfortable at the five and embracing every moment as it comes.
“I think I’ve really just got some experience under my belt now,” said Philip.
“It’s been a few years since I’ve been in the gold jersey, so I’m just trying to make every moment count.
“I’ve been loving my experience here and loving the new coaching staff, so I’m just really enjoying my time here.”
“I’m a bit of a late bloomer in terms of my body and being in the top five role - I really think it’s an older man’s game and I’m definitely not old yet but I’ve got that experience under my belt now and I really think I can thrive in the physical battles.
“It’s quite confrontational up there, so I’m enjoying that.”
One element of the popular enforcer’s game that’s transferred strongly to the international level, has been Philip’s improved running ability – a skill that was particularly on show during the Wallabies thrilling First Test draw in Wellington.
“It’s definitely something I’ve worked on the last couple of years and something Dave Rennie and Wisey (Scott Wisemantel) have really spoken a lot to me about – footwork, some leg drive when it comes to the contact stuff.”
“As I’ve said before, a bit more experience and my body has grown into that role as well, so I feel really comfortable in the contact areas as well.
“It has been something I’ve focused on during the last couple of years and it’s a role I love doing – I love getting my hands on the ball and I love ball carrying, so I’m grateful I’ve got the opportunity to bring that part of my game to the Wallabies."
Needing a win to keep their Bledisloe hopes alive, Head Coach Dave Rennie has made five changes to his starting side ahead of Saturday night’s opening Tri Nations clash in Sydney, with Melbourne Rebels Captain, Dane Haylett-Petty, returning at full-back.
Still searching for his first career victory over the All Blacks, Haylett-Petty’s experience will be a valuable addition to a young and inexperienced Wallabies’ outfit, something Philip believes will be a huge asset come Saturday night.
“It’s great to have the old bull back – I love playing with Dane.”
“He’s obviously a very safe option back there and he’s played many times before.
“He’s great with the high ball and he’s a great ball carrier as well, so I think he can bring some go forward, as well as his knowledge of the back field as well.
The Wallabies face the New Zealand All Blacks in the opening Tri Nations match at ANZ Stadium on Saturday, October 31, beginning at 7.45PM (AEDT)