Super Rugby
Waratahs' raid on Rebels claims Phipps
ESPN Staff
March 13, 2013
The Rebels' Nick Phipps celebrates his side's victory, Melbourne Rebels v Crusaders, Super Rugby, AAMI Park, Melbourne, Australia, May 12, 2012
Nick Phipps is the only player to have appeared in every Melbourne Rebels match since the franchise started © Getty Images

New South Wales Waratahs coach Michael Cheika's all-out assault to boost his playing ranks next year, as revealed by ESPNscrum's Ruck 'n Maul column last Friday, has claimed its first major target with the accidental release of a statement confirming half-back Nick Phipps has signed with the Australian Rugby Union (ARU) and the Waratahs.

A technical glitch on the ARU's website was supposedly responsible for the posting of a story confirming that Phipps is leaving Melbourne Rebels and has signed with the ARU and the Waratahs for 2014 and 2015.

In an embarrassing gaff that will do little to help strained relations between the national governing body and the franchises, the statement was posted well ahead of the planned release the Waratahs were hoping for this Saturday after their match against the Cheetahs on Friday night.

The story has since been removed from the ARU website, though a headline for an inactive link can still be found via the search function on the site.

Phipps is the first player confirmed to switch from the Rebels to the Waratahs, and it is widely believed Kurtley Beale will also return to Sydney next year. Mitch Inman is another a possible target at the Rebels as Waratahs coach Cheika looks to firm up his midfield options.

As a foundation player Phipps is the only one to have appeared in every Rebels match since the Melbourne franchise started, and his move to the Waratahs will be big blow to experience in the squad.

Speculation around a possible move for Phipps came after he was reportedly disappointed around how the Rebels were chasing former Wallabies half-back Luke Burgess, and his new asking price as the incumbant Wallabies No.9 was well beyond what the Melbourne franchise could afford.

Burgess is currently playing for Toulouse in France, after signing a three-year deal with the club after Rugby World Cup 2011, but he has been granted an early release to return home for "family reasons" after the current season and it is rumoured he will be joining the Rebels next year after the Waratahs showed no interest in his return.

Greg Growden and Russell Barwick share all the latest from the rugby rumour mill and preview this weekend's Six Nations and Super Rugby action.
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