London Irish have confirmed the signing of Waratahs and Wallabies pair Curtis Rona and Nick Phipps for the 2019/20 season.
Rona, a 26-year-old centre, made his name with NRL clubs North Queensland Cowboys and Canterbury Bulldogs before switching codes to join Western Force in 2016, where his performances were rewarded with a call-up into the 2017 Australian national squad. A debut came against New Zealand and included a try, and in 2018 he crossed the country to sign for New South Wales Waratahs, spurning a number of offers from the NRL and overseas to do so.
Phipps, a 30-year-old scrum-half, has been a mainstay of the Australian national team since his debut in 2011, and has 71 international caps to his name, including the 2015 Rugby World Cup final.
Last year Rona played 15 times for the Waratahs on their journey to the semi-finals, scoring seven times. He is looking forward to joining London Irish once his contractual commitments in Australia have finished.
A Super Rugby winner with New South Wales Waratahs, Phipps was the province’s captain in 2018 and is a member of the distinguished group to have played over 100 games in the tournament. A winner of the Waratah Medal for on-field and off-field excellence in 2016, Phipps is an ambassador of the Royal Flying Doctor Service.
“It's an exciting time for me to be joining London Irish,” Phipps says. “They have a rich tradition, there is a vision with clear goals and a new stadium coming. Hopefully with my experiences from playing for Australia and in Super Rugby I can bring something to the club, contributing both on and off the field in an unbelievable city.”
“Playing in England will be a challenge but I know that everything is in place for London Irish to succeed - great coaches and players, world class training facilities, and a strong desire to win,” he said. “The support is legendary and the London move makes it the right time to join the club.”
At 6ft 4in and 102kgs Rona’s physical presence is undeniable, but London Irish Director of Rugby Declan Kidney says that he will bring plenty more to the club’s backline next season.
“Curtis has not been playing rugby union for a long time but has already shown that he has the talent to be a very good player,” he said. “He has power, pace and plenty of ability with ball in hand, and will complement the other players we have in the squad here at London Irish.”
Phipps will arrive at Hazelwood at the end of his Australian contractual commitments, and Director of Rugby Declan Kidney says that his experience will make him a good addition to the Exiles’ squad.
“Our focus is on winning the Championship and we’re not taking anything for granted, but we also have to plan our recruitment and are delighted that Nick wants to join us,” he said.
“He has plenty of experience, both in terms of playing as well as leadership, and both of these will be important as we build for the future."