Scott Higginbotham has given Australian rugby a considerable boost by signing a two-year contract extension that will see him remain at the Melbourne Rebels until at least the end of the 2015 Rugby World Cup.
The powerful Qantas Wallabies back row man’s commitment came at the end of a week in which Queensland Reds win Digby Ioane confirmed he is heading to Europe at the end of the season
“It was a privilege to make the squad for the last World Cup and I’d like another crack at it. There’s definitely some unfinished business there,” admitted Higginbotham.
“Obviously the tour by the British & Irish Lions is taking centre stage for everyone at the moment, but we’ve got a good base at the Wallabies now, a squad that has plenty of competition for places and is maturing as a team.
“Hopefully, everyone will stick together, stay in Australia and keep driving the standards upwards, so that we can use the Lions as a springboard for the likes of the Bledisloe Cup, the Rugby Championship and then the World Cup.”
The 26-year-old, who this year has risen through the ranks to captain his new club, featured in 12 of the 15 Tests played by the Wallabies last year, adding a level of consistency to his performance that built on his 2011 experience when five of his 10 Test appearances came off the bench.
After having his Test entry delayed by a back injury in 2010, Higginbotham had a memorable maiden Test, coming off the bench during Australia’s record-breaking 59-16 demolition of the then RBS 6 Nations champion French side in Paris, in what was the Wallabies’ final Test of that year.
“I’m definitely a lot more comfortable in the Test arena now. That’s just the benefit of experience. I’ve had two full seasons, played all of the big nations and learned plenty of lessons along the way,” he said.
Capable at either blindside flanker, or on the back of the scrum, Higginbotham enters 2013 having won 16 of his 23 Tests, with another ending in a draw, which represents a personal success rate of 70% wearing the Wallaby jersey.
“The difficulties of last year on the injury front are well documented, but we’ve come out of that in a better place. We’re seeing that in Super Rugby this year,” he added.
“Guys that have gained a bit of Test experience are stepping up: the competition for places is as tight as I’ve ever seen it. That’s a great thing for Australian Rugby, both for the Lions series, but also looking ahead.
“That was a big reason for staying. We are in a position where the Wallabies are only going to get better.
“Winning the Tri Nations in 2011 was special, but I’d like to win a series over the Lions, get my hands on the Rugby Championship, the Bledisloe Cup and the World Cup if possible, before I look at doing something else.”