Waratahs halfback Nick Phipps is closing in on a Super Rugby return against the Brumbies after missing a month with a calf injury.
Phipps tweaked his calf in a preseason Wallabies conditioning camp and has struggled to shake off the issue since.
The 30-year-old was close to a return last week, training for most of the week with the team, but the Waratahs took a cautious approach to their scrumhalf’s return.
Defence coach Steve Tandy said Phipps could be in the frame for a possible return in Friday night’s game.
“He trained last week, so I think his training’s going to go up again this week so then we’ll review and probably make that decision later in the week,” he said.
“His energy around the group (is important).
“(We saw) him coming into a little bit of training last week, the energy, the intent around what it is, his chat, he’s a great leader, his speed.
“He is an awesome Waratah and it’s going to be awesome to have him back around training fully.”
Phipps would have to beat out in-form Jake Gordon for a starting spot should he return against the Brumbies.
The pair offer different weapons to the team, with Gordon’s running game a particular danger, and Tandy said that competition could only be a good thing for the side.
“The better teams, you’ve got to have competition and it’s something and having a little bit of difference in those scrumhalves really help around conditions, opposition and obviously at the weekend moved the back three around in around the Reds,” he said.
“I think you’ve got to have that ability to move things around and change according to different games and these games are physical so obviously you’ve got to give people a break every now and again as well, so it’s awesome to have two nines and Shorty’s (Mitch Short) been pushing hard as well so it’s good to have that competition within the group.”
The Waratahs will certainly be missing flanker Will Miller with an ankle injury he suffered against the Reds.
Michael Wells will be back in Sydney on Wednesday after finishing his months-long stint with the Australian Sevens in Canada.
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Whether he will be slotted straight back into the 23 will be decided later in the week, but the return of last year’s regular no. 8 is a timely one given Miller’s injury.
The Brumbies will present a slightly different threat for the Waratahs on Friday but second rower Jed Holloway was certain that their trademark maul would be a focus again, after the ACT side again scored off their set piece against the Rebels.
“Obviously their maul, their maul’s a huge strength for them,” he said.
“(Hooker) Folau Faingaa’s scored four tries this year from maul so it’s kind of gone back to the Brumbies team of old which is a real weapon for them, so I’m sure there’s going to be a lot of mauling practise this week at training, which will be good.
“I think if we shut that threat down we’ve got a red-hot backline that’ll hopefully do the job on theirs.”
Tandy said there was a simple way to avoid the Brumbies maul getting the best of the Waratahs.
“Don’t give them lineouts,” he laughed.
“I think there’s a little bit around discipline as well, around that mid-third, not giving cheap ins, whether it be offside or infringements that we don’t need to give away because we know in and around the Brumbies they get them in that corner, they’re not going to leave you out.”
The Waratahs face the Brumbies in Canberra on Friday March 15, kicking off at 7:45pm AEDT, LIVE on FOX SPORTS and via RUGBY.com.au RADIO. Buy tickets here.