Wallabies ace Nick Phipps is concerned with the damage done to Australian Rugby Union by Israel Folau.
Phipps, capped by Australia for the 72nd time against Samoa in September, is disturbed by the way the game has fallen away in the esteem of Aussie fans.
The scrum-half, who says he is now done with international rugby as he turns his attention to helping London Irish become a Premiership force, said: “It’s just sad.
“There’s so much that’s been bubbling for five or ten years, and the stuff with Israel, below, has really accentuated it and let the other two codes, Aussie Rules and League, take over the sporting scene.
“We know that the best people are in Rugby Union, but we’re seen as the worst people at the moment throughout Australia. There’s a lot of focus on all that and it’s not good with a new TV rights deal coming up.”
Phipps, a Super Rugby winner with the Waratahs in 2014 who represented Australia at two World Cups, playing in the 2015 final against New Zealand, added: “There are so many players who love the game and so many awesome clubs who’d like to build it up again, but they’ve been left behind a bit.
“Hopefully, something starts to change soon. You’d still have a lot of faith in the Wallabies being strong in future, but to be so our clubs at all levels need proper support.”
Phipps failed to make the Australian World Cup squad and believes he must now devote more time to his young family and make the most of his club career after heading north.
Although still eligible for Test selection under Australia’s 60-cap rule, former Waratahs No.9 Phipps told The Rugby Paper: “I think I’m pretty much done.
“I’d find it hard to uproot my family again and head back for international footy and, to be honest, there’s players there now who need to be playing and building for the next World Cup.
“I don’t know if I’d make it that far so it’s probably a decision based on what’s best for Australia rugby.
“I’m enjoying my footy so much at London Irish at the moment and with a young family I want to be here for them and don’t want to be leaving them alone for a couple of months while I’m jaunting across the continents playing rugby.
“I left Australia with a smile on my face, satisfied with what I’ve done.”
Having made an encouraging start to his London Irish career, Phipps is determined to help his new team build on their good form.
He said: “After nine years in Super Rugby it was time to do something different and I just feel like the competition here is so strong. It’s a different style of rugby here and the coaches were adamant about not just throwing me straight in, but I’ve enjoyed it, settled in well with all the boys and I’m starting to get some more game time.
“It’s awesome to have a few Aussies in the squad but it’s also full of Poms, Irish and a few South Africans and Kiwis, so that’s really cool. There are so many players that I’ve played against as well so it’s an awesome experience.
“There’s so much I want to learn about northern hemisphere rugby as well. Rightly or wrongly, Australia’s adamant about full-on, attacking rugby, but here it’s actually thrilling to put genuine pressure on a team by putting the ball in behind the opposition and going through three or four sets of gaining territory before scoring.
“That’s exciting and satisfying for me and something I really enjoy learning about and working with the coaches at London Irish on how to do it. At the end of the day, that’s going to make myself and all the other guys better players.”
With Irish riding high in the Premiership, Phipps says: “The greatest thing that Irish have to work on now is not so much that they’re surprising other people, but just believing in themselves that they’re good enough.
“They’ve got some great players, with a really good system, young players bursting through and people pushing for positions, so the greatest challenge is to have confidence in themselves that they are one of the best teams in the competition.
“If we can just put that out week-in, week-out we’ll be very strong and there’s a good block of Premiership games coming up now, starting with Bath on the 22nd. Get some good points out of that block and we’ll be in a good position.”
After losing his World Cup place to Exeter’s Nic White, Phipps is looking forward to reacquainting himself with some old faces in the coming weeks.
He added: “It was bitterly disappointing to miss the World Cup but I had a good run and it’ll be good to play against Nic and few other Aussies embedded here.
“I played against Luke Morahan at Bristol and he’s probably the form Aussie winger who can’t get a run with the Wallabies at the moment, so it’s good to see these blokes and I can’t wait to come up against my old housemate, Jono Lance.
“We’ve got Worcester coming up so I’ll look forward to finding him at the bottom of a ruck and trying to give him a bit of a working over!”