Former Wallabies halfback Nick Phipps has shared the remarkable family history of his Anzac grandfathers.

Super Rugby’s Anzac Round this weekend will be special for many players on both sides of the Tasman.

And watching on keenly from his new London base will be former Wallabies halfback Nick Phipps, whose connection to the horrors – and heroism – of World War II is hard to beat.

Phipps shared his incredible, improbable family connection on Stan Sport’s Rugby Heaven this week.

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“It’s special in our story because both my grandparents (Jim Phipps and Ronnie McIntosh) were over in Egypt fighting in the second 13th anti-tank regiment and they were tasked to try and stop (Nazi general Erwin) Rommel rolling across Egypt and across Africa,” Phipps explained.

“They were on their way to Tobruk (in Libya) and they got left behind and told to try and storm as much as possible.

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“A big battle ensued there and it’s just amazing that both my grandparents were on the same gun and they were the only two or three that survived the six-man gun and they spent the rest of the war in a German prisoner of war camp.”

The firm friends bravely escaped from the camp at one point, patching up a boat with sticks they hid in their shirts before being recaptured.

They were eventually liberated by American soldiers at the end of the war in 1945 and returned to Australia to start families.

And as fate would have it, that set the stage for their children Peter Phipps, then a trainee teacher, and Janie McIntosh, a nanny, to meet during a night out in Sydney in the 1980s.

“All these years later they (Jim and Ronnie) met up when both my parents had met and I guess I was the offset of that,” Phipps said.

Even more remarkably, Jim also played for the Wallabies along with a third man on that anti-tank gun, Russ Kelly.

“So there’s a long story for our family there and it was pretty special for him, I think, to see the line going on,” Phipps said.

Now playing for London Irish in England’s Premiership, Phipps had powerful memories of playing Super Rugby in Anzac Round, and taking stock while listening to the haunting bugle call of the Last Post.

“You just take a bit of time to step back from yourself really,” Phipps said.

“You definitely know you’re there to do a big job and it’s a big occasion but when all the bells and whistles start up and you’re out there taking a moment to reflect, you spend a bit of time about all the people previously and currently who are sacrificing a lot of their time and opportunities and ultimately sometimes their lives to protect those freedoms that you’re out there on the field to do.”

Both Super Rugby AU games this weekend will feature Anzac ceremonies while Olivia Fox will perform Advance Australia Fair in the Dharug language ahead of the Waratahs clash with the Rebels.

The Weary Dunlop Shield will go on the line for that match in Sydney, in honour of the former Wallaby and Australian surgeon who was renowned for his leadership while being held prisoner during World War II.

The Force, meanwhile, will wear a special jersey in their game against the Reds, featuring a silhouette of Australian solders and the commemorative poppy.

“In the past 12 months, the Australia Defence Force has mobilised and helped our community during fires, floods, drought and the COVID-19 pandemic,” Rugby Australia chief executive Andy Marinos said.

“They’ve turned rugby clubs into shelters, evacuated members of our rugby community from floods and fire, and even assisted in quarantining our inbound teams for last year’s Rugby Championship.

“This weekend’s Anzac Round not only pays tribute to those who have served, but also to those who are currently serving.

“On behalf of Australian rugby, we thank them all for their service and sacrifice.”

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