Wallabies lock Matt Philip will be using every trick he learnt during his time playing with French Top 14 club Pau to secure his place in Australia's line-up against France in the opening Test match in Sydney next month.
Returning to Australia on Friday, Phillip is currently completing his mandatory hotel quarantine before he can take his place in the Wallabies camp which is set to come together tomorrow at Sanctuary Cove on the Gold Coast.
Philip joined the Top 14 club after the Wallabies truncated Bledisloe Cup and Tri Nations series in 2020 and quickly made an impact with the team, but it was during their final match of the season that he really shined, scoring a double to help Pau avoid the relegation play-off.
Speaking to media via Zoom on Monday, the 27-year-old revealed how difficult playing in France had been during the COVID-19 pandemic and what he hoped to bring back from his six months in the Northern Hemisphere.
"It was tough if I'm honest. I was over there for seven months and pretty much the whole time we were in lockdown; curfews, no crowds at games, couldn't do much travel," Philip said.
"From that perspective it was quite tough, but I think I'll be better for it. It was a challenging time, I played some really tough rugby, but I'm going to be a better player and a better person for it.
"Top 14 is quite a physical competition, I'm going to say it's more physical than Super Rugby, so from that point of view I had to learn a few more techniques, adjust my tackling technique a little bit to suit versing some really big bodies over there, compared to what we do here.
"And definitely around my scrum and lineout, I definitely picked up a few things there which I'm excited to try out and see how they go over here. The Top 14 is rugby but it's very different to Super Rugby."
Naming his 38-man Wallabies squad on Sunday, Dave Rennie made special note of wanting "ruthless" players and wanting his team to become "different creatures, aggressive and competitive".
The message wasn't lost on Philip, who believes the team had been building a strong foundation last year, but acknowledged defence was where mongrel could come into play.
"I think defence is probably way that can be shown. Looking at the Super Rugby, I don't think the Australian teams would have been proud with the way they defended.
"I think Dave will look to make a few adjustments there, whether it's a mindset thing or technical thing, I'm not sure I'm not the coach, but I think the team that's been selected has a lot of strong defensive players in there who can really put those dominant shots on which I think is what he's going to be looking for.
"We don't want to take a backwards step of where we left off. We built a solid foundation last year, we showed what we can do in a couple games against the All Blacks and the Argentinean team as well. But we want to be going up from there, it's a lot of the same players in this squad and we want to take those learnings and not have to re-learn them this year - really go forward from where we left off."
Set up with a mini-gym in his hotel room, Philip will spend his next 10 days keeping fit with a watt bike and weights, while reading his homework and studying plays as he prepares to hit the ground running. Missing out on nine days of training camp, he won't have time to ease his way back into training, and is determined to be as knowledgeable as his teammates when it comes to game play.
"The boys are going into camp tomorrow so I've already asked if they talk about anything in meetings if they can forward it onto me. I've got all the time in the world on my hands here and I'd love to be able to hit the ground running, head into my first lineout session already knowing all the calls.
"That's a little goal of mine, to make sure I'm over all the knowledge by the time I come out and not too far behind the boys.
"I don't think there's time for me to ease into training. I come out pretty much two weeks before the first game, and I want to put my hand up for selection pretty much straight away. I think the goal here is to try get as much done as I can with the equipment I've got to give myself the best shot.
Despite news last week that France had yet to agree on the strict quarantine conditions NSW Health had put forth for the team, Philip is certain the lure of Test rugby is enough to get France's best players to Australia.
"I definitely spoke to them about it, but it's Test rugby at the end of the day. Two weeks in quarantine, don't get me wrong is very tough, but if there's a Test match for them at the end of it it's well worth it. The boys love playing Test rugby and I know how passionate the French are about representing their country, so to them it's well worth it.
"They're definitely keen on coming."