LONDON (Reuters) - Nick Phipps has warmed the bench since the return of Will Genia from Europe but the New South Wales scrumhalf has quickly established himself as the Wallabies’ starting pest.
Phipps sparked an all-in melee late in the second half of the 33-21 win over Argentina on Saturday when he shoved a Pumas physio during a break in play at Twickenham.
The clash occurred as both approached to retrieve the ball, with Phipps’ shove sending the Pumas’ staffer sprawling onto the turf.
Angered winger Matias Moroni charged in to remonstrate and gave a pay-back shove or two before a routine bout of physical and verbal jousting ensued between the rest of the players.
Phipps might have been lucky not to receive a yellow card, regardless of whether the physio had any right to be near the ball at the time, but neither teams’ coach had much to say about it.
Pumas coach Daniel Hourcade said he and his staff had missed the incident, while Michael Cheika played it down as a “heat of the moment” issue.
“No one was injured,” the Wallabies coach told reporters.
“Nick’s probably trying to get the ball, I really don’t know what was going through anyone’s minds. The referee dealt with it on the field. It’s probably a rare situation that you get, so he just dealt with it the best he could.”
The verdict was harsher on social media, with Phipps flayed by rugby fans.
“Nick Phipps needs to learn some respect before he gets to put that jersey on and play,” said Grace Raqio (@g_raqio) in one of the more restrained posts on Twitter.
The Sydney-born 27-year-old has taken on a nuisance role with gusto during the Rugby Championship, flashing a broad grin when opposing players confront him about his antics.
He caused outrage in New Zealand earlier in the tournament during the Wallabies’ spite-filled 29-9 loss in Wellington when he stripped centre Malakai Fekitoa of his left boot in a tackle and promptly hurled it off the field of play.
Fekitoa had to hobble through several phases before retrieving his boot.
Reporting by Ian Ransom in Melbourne; Editing by Greg Stutchbury