Wallabies lock stocks boosted by Philip's Rebels return

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SYDNEY - Wallabies coach Dave Rennie received a boost on Thursday when it was confirmed that lock Matt Philip will be returning to Australia with the Melbourne Rebels for the next Super Rugby season.

Rennie identified the second row as a problem position when he took over last year but Philip was outstanding in the engine room and started all six of Australia's Bledisloe Cup and Tri-Nations matches.

The 27-year-old joined French club Pau on a short-term contract at the end of last year but will return to Australia in July ahead of the three-test home series against France.

"I feel like I've only just got started within the Wallabies environment. I have a lot to give, so if provided the opportunity I won't take a backwards step," Philip said in a statement.

"I have worked hard on bringing a level of consistency to my game with my carries, my set piece and my engine around the field. I hope this will put me in good stead come selection time."

Philip was one of a number of players who left Australia for Europe and Japan last year as the COVID-19 pandemic took its toll of the finances of the game.

Fellow test lock Izack Rodda walked out on the Queensland Reds in a pay dispute but returned from French club Lyon last month to play for the Perth-based Western Force.

While France is in the grip of a four-week coronavirus lockdown aimed at limiting a surge in COVID-19 cases, Australia has largely managed to contain the virus and life is close to normal for most people.

(Reporting by Nick Mulvenney, editing by Peter Rutherford)

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