The B&I Lions are taking centre stage
The Wallabies and the Melbourne Rebels have received a timely boost with news that Scott Higginbotham has recommitted to both for a further two years.
The new deal with the Australian Rugby Union and the Super Rugby franchise takes Higginbotham through to the end of the 2015 World Cup, with the powerful back row forward acknowledging that attending the tournament had been a factor in his decision.
"I'd like another crack at it without doubt," Higginbotham said.
"It was a privilege to make the squad for the last one, and a good experience, but there's definitely some unfinished business there.
"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 Six 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 flank, 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 percent 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," Higginbotham said of the 2012 Wallaby season.
"We are seeing that in Super Rugby this year. 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."
Lifestyle factors have also influenced, with Higginbotham enjoying his first year in Melbourne after a five-year stint on the playing staff at the Queensland Reds, which included the state's maiden Super Rugby title in 2011.
Such is the value the Wallaby forward has brought to the club; he was promoted to captain last month, with the decision reaping an immediate reward when the Rebels upset the Western Force in Perth.
"Melbourne's great. The city has a relaxed feeling to it, the club has been fantastic and, while I never anticipated being captain; the chance to lead the team has been something I have enjoyed," Higginbotham said.