How Nic White honed his halfback craft for a World Cup shot

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On the cusp of a first Test in almost four years, Nic White says he is now better equipped for international rugby after honing his halfback craft overseas in the northern hemisphere.

White is in line to pull on the Wallabies jersey against the Springboks in Johannesburg this weekend, either in the run-on side or from the bench, in what would be his first international since he started Australia's loss to New Zealand in Auckland in 2015.

The former Brumbies scrum-half had only a week earlier scored the match-winning try for the Wallabies over the All Blacks at ANZ Stadium, but missed out on a spot in Michael Cheika's World Cup squad to Nick Phipps who served as Will Genia's deputy throughout the tournament.

Such has been White's form in the years since, first at Montpellier and then at Exeter, that the push to bring him back into the Wallabies fold began 12 months ago. And he is now rated a huge chance of usurping Will Genia as Australia's first-choice No. 9 for this year's World Cup in Japan.

"There was a seed planted there and again it was probably something I didn't think was going to come to fruition," White said from Johannesburg ahead of the Wallabies Rugby Championship opener. "But once conversations became more regular I got pretty excited.

"It was something that I thought was going to be post-World Cup with the [player] exodus but the chance to go to a World Cup came about so I had to make a few calls. And obviously Exeter had to help out in that regard and they were happy to help, and here I am giving it a crack."

While White was deemed to be one of the hard-luck stories of four years ago, a pre-tournament decision to take his talents overseas likely counted against him when the final 31-man squad was named.

But he is also honest enough to acknowledge the holes that existed in his game in 2015, little weaknesses he has worked hard to correct in the Top 14 and then the English Premiership. Four years on, White is regarded as one of Premiership's standout No. 9s after helping spearhead Exeter to back-to-back finals at Twickenham.

"I didn't really feel as though I gave the best of myself in that Wallaby jersey, I didn't feel as confident [as I do now] when I left," White said of his decision to return. "Obviously missing out on the last World Cup had a lot to do with it as well. But it probably just comes with age and experience, I feel a little bit more comfortable within myself and in my own ability now to show the best of myself given the opportunity.

"I just think playing with Exeter to what I was playing back in Canberra in terms of holding onto the ball, running a lot more; a lot of play being more around No. 9 and just having the confidence to play that style. So that was exciting going there and [implementing] the style of play that I enjoy."

White is available for the Wallabies through the Giteau Law, which allows players who are based overseas to represent Australia if they have over 60 caps or have signed to return to Australian rugby on a two-year deal. White is yet to finalise his Super Rugby franchise and admits he is unlikely to play any rugby in the competition in 2020, but he also revealed the intention was always to come back for a second stint in Australia.

"It was [High Performance manager] Ben Whitaker who asked me would I ever come home, and I said the plan was always to come home [and play in Australia again]," White said. "I just had a few things that I wanted to experience in Europe but also show that there were other parts to my game and I think I did that."

White offers Cheika a genuine point-of-difference at scrum-half to veteran Will Genia and the Brumbies' Joe Powell, who pipped Jake Gordon, Phipps and livewire Reds youngster Tate McDermott for the final halfback spot in Australia's 34-man squad for the Rugby Championship. And the Scone-raised No. 9 has the added advantage of being exposed to a more northern hemisphere style of rugby, which may swing the selection decision his way later this year in Japan.

Whatever route Cheika decides to take, White is just happy to be back in the Wallabies environment. And he is prepared for whatever the next few weeks throw up as Australia attempt to build some much-needed momentum ahead of game's global showpiece.

"I think I've already shown how much it would mean to me; I've asked Exeter, a place where I've really enjoyed and loved playing at the moment, I've asked them to release me out of the last year of my contract there to come home to chase this," he said. "So I think I've shown how much I really want it but that doesn't mean anything; I think there [are] probably 70 or 80 blokes that all want it.

"But I've shown that I'm willing to do whatever I can to take the opportunity and now that I've been given it I'm going to take it with both hands... there's a lot [to happen] between now and then [World Cup]; a lot of water to go under the bridge, squads will change, and all sorts of things will happen. So as I said at the start, just take each day as it comes."