It comes as no surprise, but Nick Frost – the man who was oh so nearly lost to Japan – has been awarded as Rugby Australia’s rookie of the year.

Frost, 23, was on the cusp of joining Robbie Deans’ Panasonic Wild Knights before then Brumbies coach convinced Rugby Australia to have one final crack of keeping the towering lock.

It worked, and Frost and the Wallabies haven’t looked back.

Nick Frost took out the Rugby Australia rookie of the year after a breakout 2023. Photo : Cameron Spencer/Getty Images

The Knox Grammar product, who spent time with Scott Robertson’s Crusaders academy, made his debut against England off the bench in Brisbane before starting a week later in Sydney.

By season’s end, Frost was an established player in the Wallabies.

“2022 was a special year for me, and definitely one I’ll look back on at the end of my career,” Frost said in a statement.

“Getting the chance to play for the Wallabies for the first time was obviously a huge milestone for myself and kicking on from that, earning more minutes at international level – it was awesome to be a part of.

“I’ve got a great bunch of mates here at the Brumbies and, with this award, I can only thank them, my coaches, and my friends and family for supporting me along the way.”

Barbarians joint head coach Scott Robertson before the Killik Cup match between Barbarians and All Blacks XV at Tottenham Hotspur Stadium in London, England. (Photo By Ramsey Cardy/Sportsfile via Getty Images)

Scott Robertson is likely to find out by mid-April whether he will be the next All Blacks coach. Photo: Ramsey Cardy/Sportsfile via Getty Images

Meanwhile across the ditch, the circus surrounding the All Blacks’ next coach should come to a close within six weeks.

New Zealand Rugby chair Patsy Reddy said the process – which is expected to see Scott Robertson named to replace Ian Foster after the 2023 World Cup – would be concluded in “four to six weeks.”

“New Zealand Rugby has a responsibility to the game with respect to the appointment of our national coaching teams,’’ Reddy said a statement on Wednesday.

“This is particularly important in a global rugby environment where there is significant competition for elite coaching talent.

“Following wide-ranging consultation and after carefully weighing up all scenarios and the key lessons from 2019, New Zealand Rugby is now commencing a process for selecting the All Blacks Head Coach from 2024.

“We appreciate these decisions are challenging as we try to find the balance between public scrutiny and high-performance expectations, within the need to safeguard our responsibilities and ensure we are prioritising conversations internally with our people.

“Until now, New Zealand Rugby has been reluctant to talk publicly about an appointment process for the All Blacks Coach to protect the integrity of the process, and to minimise the scrutiny on the individuals involved. Recent events, however, necessitate some clarity.

“Noting the divergent views as to the best timings for this process and that neither timing window is perfect, out of respect for the people involved, New Zealand Rugby will not be making any further comment after today until a decision has been reached. This will be concluded in the next four to six weeks.”

The statement ends rampant speculation over the timeline for a new coach. Robertson had previously told reporters that a decision was imminent, denied by NZR, and incumbent Ian Foster has expressed his opposition to a call being made before the World Cup, saying it would lead to distractions for the team.

Reddy later told a media conference she has faith in Foster, and was “absolutely behind him’’ to lead the All Blacks to success at the Rugby World Cup.

Foster has said he might want to continue if New Zealand wins the World Cup. Reddy’s statement takes that factor out of play.

Robertson faces a challenge from Japan’s head coach Jamie Joseph for the role if Foster is let go.

Reddy declined to respond to Foster’s comments.

“We are all passionate about this, it is really important to the country, we understand that,” she said.

“And as I said, no timing is perfect here. We’ve got to weigh up the options and we’ve decided that making the decision now, having clarity, getting it behind us so we can focus on the current team and management and coaching staff and supporting them through Rugby World Cup 23 is our priority.’’

Reddy defended the NZR’s previous lack of clarity around the process, saying: “We are now coming out to make our point clear.

“It is a confidential process, and it will remain confidential from here on it, but we’re not responsible for what other people say in the media.’’

Reddy said it was “up to Ian’’ whether he reapplied for the job.

“I think everyone is really focussed on winning Rugby World Cup 2023. We’ve seen a number of players now, while they’re fully focussed on Rugby World Cup 2023, they’re looking to their futures. I think it’s normal in high performance sport that professional athletes and coaches and management teams are always looking to their future,” Reddy said.

Smith sent back for ‘game time’

The international career of Marcus Smith is at a crossroads with the youngster being released by England ahead of their Six Nations game against France.

Smith will “benefit from game time” after being released to play for Harlequins, according to England head coach Steve Borthwick.

The 24-year-old was left out of England’s training squad, with George Ford returning.

“I felt the best thing for Marcus was to get some game time,” said Borthwick.

“He has had very limited game time so I felt this was a step forward for him.”

Smith started England’s defeat by Scotland but was a replacement for the victories over Italy and Wales.

‘They would die for it’

Western Force lock Jeremy Thrush says he was struggling to get rid of his “dad bod” before last week’s fairytale comeback, but some reassuring words from Richard Kahui and Dane Coles helped boost his confidence. 

Thrush was lured out of retirement by new Force coach Simon Cron on the eve of the Super Rugby Pacific season after Ryan McCauley (shoulder) and Izack Rodda (foot) were cut down by injury.

The memorable comeback will forever be etched into Force folklore, with Thrush coming off the bench to score the winning try in Saturday night’s 34-27 win over the Melbourne Rebels.

Cron is considering keeping Thrush for the entire season, and the 37-year-old is open to the idea.

But he initially felt a bit guilty about the comeback given the special send-off he received in his retirement game against the Hurricanes last season.

“I felt pretty bad to be fair. The way they sent me off with that haka was pretty special, and I was pretty grateful for that,” Thrush told reporters on Tuesday.

Jeremy Thrush of the Force looks on during the round one Super Rugby Pacific match between Western Force and Melbourne Rebels at HBF Park, on February 25, 2023, in Perth, Australia. (Photo by Paul Kane/Getty Images)

Jeremy Thrush of the Force looks on during the round one Super Rugby Pacific match between Western Force and Melbourne Rebels at HBF Park, on February 25, 2023, in Perth, Australia. (Photo by Paul Kane/Getty Images)

“I did message (Hurricanes hooker) Dane Coles when I knew I might be on the bench, just to give him a heads up.

“I just said to him that none of this was planned.

“He just said, ‘get stuck in and have a good crack at it’. It made me feel better about all that.”

Former Force and All Blacks teammate Kahui was also supportive.

“He told me during the week it’s like riding a bike,” Thrush said, before adding: “I said ‘one with flat tyres and a rusty chain’.”

What made Thrush’s performance all the more remarkable was the fact he only had one full week of training with the Force under his belt before the game.

“(Before that) I’d probably done two runs by myself, nothing too intense,” he said.

“I’d been on the Wattbike a few times, and lifted weights, but nothing too serious.

“I was just trying to get rid of the dad bod, but it was taking a while.”

Thrush says he will have “rolling” conversations with Cron and Force management about how much longer he is needed for.

But at the very least, he’s set to be unleashed in Sunday’s clash with the Queensland Reds in Melbourne. 

Thrush is part of the coaching team at the Force academy.

He’s also the head coach of WA rugby union outfit Wests Scarborough.

If Thrush’s stint at the Force lasts the full Super season, he said there would be a way to balance his coaching and playing duties. 

Thrush was initially hesitant to reverse his retirement decision. But the more he thought about it, the more right it seemed.

“I’ve met a lot of great people through the Force, guys who can’t play for them any more through injuries,” he said.

“I kind of knew if they had that same decision, they would die for it.”


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