- 412Wallaby Number
Rod Phelps was one of the great all-rounders to have played Test rugby for Australia. During his international career, Phelps started at fullback, inside centre, outside centre, left wing and right wing. Attack was his motto, his general handling and kicking were excellent and he tackled with deadly efficiency. Born in Sydney, Phelps was educated at North Sydney Boys’ High School where he excelled in diving and rugby. After school he played his club rugby in the sub-district competition for Old Falconians before he transferred to the University of Sydney in 1954.
Phelps made his representative debut the following year when selected on the right wing for New South Wales against Queensland. He scored two tries in the 25-19 win and two days later picked up another try in a 28-9 victory. Later that season, Phelps was chosen for his first Wallaby tour to New Zealand. Dick Tooth played fullback in the 1st Test, an 8-16 loss at Wellington however the backline underwent significant change for the 2nd Test after John Solomon badly dislocated his shoulder against South Canterbury-North Otago-Mid Canterbury and Brian Cox was out injured. Tooth was shifted to fly half for Solomon and Phelps was named to play his maiden Test.
From that debut Phelps played in 12 consecutive Tests through to the 1st Test against the Maori in 1958 and in 23 of the Wallabies' next 27 Tests. He also toured with the Fourth Wallabies to the British Isles, France and North America in 1957/58, to New Zealand in 1958 and to South Africa in 1961. On the Fourth Wallabies tour, Phelps was honoured with the captaincy in the uncapped match against Leinster in Dublin. In his final senior representative game he played outside centre for New South Wales when they upset the 1963 Wallabies, who had just returned from their historic drawn series in South Africa, 20-18. He later coached Sydney and New South Wales with notable success.
Rod Phelps played 23 Tests for Australia in an eight-year international career.
Phelps won his first Test cap at fullback in the 0-8, 2nd Test loss to New Zealand at Carisbrook. He retained his place for the 3rd Test, 3-8 defeat at Eden Park.
Phelps started on the right wing in the two home Test losses to South Africa.
Phelps played inside centre in the two home Tests against New Zealand after incumbent inside centre Saxon White damaged the cruciate ligament in his right knee in the second NSW-Queensland fixture.
He won selection on the Fourth Wallabies tour where he started on the left wing in the first four internationals against Wales, Ireland, England and Scotland before he was slotted in at outside centre for the 0-19 loss to France in Paris.
He played outside centre in the 1st Test, 15-14 victory over the Maori in Brisbane however coach Bill McLaughlin was not satisfied with the team’s form and he felt that the main fault was a ‘lack of momentum in the backline.’ As a consequence the Australian selectors made eight changes, three of which were in the three-quarters and one of which was Phelps - for the 2nd Test in Sydney. Phelps returned to play in all three Bledisloe Cup Tests, the first at inside centre and the final two on the left wing.
Phelps missed the home series against the British Lions after he sustained a bad break to his nose in a club match.
The Wallabies did not play any Test rugby in 1960.
Phelps was capped in all six Tests. He played fullback in the three home Tests against Fiji, left wing and then outside centre in the two away Tests in South Africa, and at outside centre in the 8-5 loss to France at the S.C.G.
Phelps was originally selected on the wing for the 1st Test against New Zealand but was shifted to fullback when Jim Lenehan withdrew due to a knee injury. When Lenehan returned for the 2nd Test, Phelps moved to outside centre in combination with Peter Scott.