NSW Waratahs halfback Nick Phipps will return to rugby for the first time since last November after suffering a calf injury ahead of the start of this year's Vodafone Super Rugby competition.The 29-year-old hasn't played a game since the Wallabies' Spring Tour match against Scotland last November.
Phipps is one of 12 NSW Waratahs players set to return to club rugby on the weekend, which heralds the start of a blockbuster domestic season across New South Wales. Also donning club colours this weekend are Cody Walker, Ryan McCauley, Mack Mason (all Easts); JP Sauni, Irae Simone (both Norths), Maclean Jones (Warringah); Andrew Kellaway (Randwick); Shambeckler Vui (Souths); Matt Sandell, Tolu Latu, Brad Wilkin (all Sydney University).
"It's been a long and patient couple of months for me but I am now finally ready to test the calf and get myself ready for the season ahead. I have been well looked after in terms of my rehabilitation and now it's a question of getting out there and testing myself. I love playing for my club whenever I can and this is a great opportunity for me to reconnect with my team mates and experience the heart of our game," said Phipps, who will be playing for Sydney University when they take on Parramatta.
In all, 84 Grade and Colts Premiership teams will be in action on the weekend, along with 170 Subbies Teams and over 600 teams from the U6’s - U18’s age groups across Sydney.
Country NSW will be a hive of rugby activity as well with 275 senior teams and over 300 Junior teams joining the action.
In addition, 12 teams will kick off a new Women's Sydney Sevens competition at North Sydney Oval #2 on Saturday.
NSW's General Manager: Community Rugby, Mark Green, said while Super Rugby is in full swing, the community game is ready to hit the headlines as well.
"We are in for a real treat and it's fantastic to see the game continuing to grow in our State, especially with the inclusion of a few new teams, including the Tenterfield Bumblebees (Far North Coast Competition), Bourke Juniors, Gilgandra-Gulargambone Juniors (Western Plains Competition) and North Cronulla Sealice (Subbies Division 6). Our job is to ensure our competitions are the best and that our players, coaches, match officials, volunteers and administrators want to remain involved in the game.
“The introduction of the new Women's Sevens Competition is a result of increased interest in the game, which is reflective of the fact that female participation is our fastest growing area.
“While Sevens in the Olympic and Commonwealth Games have helped facilitate this, our popular Junior Sevens programme over the last few years has grown and we are now seeing a number of those players graduating into senior rugby.
“A number of regional areas also welcome a number of new competitions including a Friday night youth competition in Tamworth.
“The teams in the NSW Premiership and Subbies competitions have shown great interest in promoting women’s participation in their clubs.”
The start of the domestic season also brings with it new technology for clubs to use. The Fusesport Rugby App provides Premiership, Subbies and Women's Teams with up-to-date match results while Rugby Australia has developed an App named Rugby AU, specifically designed for clubs in Country NSW and Juniors to view updated competition details and results.
The NSW Waratahs will face the Sunwolves on Saturday 7 April at Tokyo's Prince Chichibu Memorial Stadium, kicking off at 3:10pm (AEST) - live on Fox Sports.
At the same time, the NSW Women will face the Melbourne Rebels Women in the final regular round match of the inaugural Buildcorp Super W competition. You watch the livestream on rugby.com.au from 3:00pm (AEST)