Unlikely Nick Frisby gets his chance for scrumhalf-starved Australia

Nick Frisby of the Queensland Reds has benefited from Will Genia's injury and departure to France to move just behind Nick Phipps in the Australia scrumhalf pecking order.

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Nick Frisby spent four bench-ridden years of frustration behind veteran Australia scrumhalf Will Genia at the Queensland Reds, so he can hardly believe he now finds himself poised to win his debut Wallabies cap against England.

Frisby was named in Michael Cheika’s squad for the three-match series and is likely to back up experienced starter Nick Phipps in the match-day 23 for the opening game in Brisbane on Saturday.

Since Genia’s departure for French club Stade Francais after the World Cup, Frisby has made the Reds’ number nine shirt his own and beat out Melbourne Rebels’ Nic Stirzaker to be the Wallabies’ second scrumhalf.

“It’s hard to believe really,” the 23-year-old told reporters in Brisbane on Sunday.

“It took me a while to sink in last week that I was out there training with some of these guys I’ve watched play for years and looked up to.

“It’s been a really pleasing year for me, I’ve hit some good form. I’ll get stuck in again this week and see where it takes me.”

Luck has helped Frisby land safely, with Genia omitted from the squad as he recovers from knee surgery earlier in the year.

A paucity of other rivals has also played a part, with capped Wallaby Nic White also leaving to play in France, rendering him ineligible for selection as he lacks the minimum 60 caps for overseas-based players to be considered.

Two of Australia’s five Super Rugby teams are using foreign players as their starting scrumhalves, with the Canberra-based ACT Brumbies recruiting Argentine Tomas Cubelli and Perth’s Western Force playing former All Black Alby Mathewson.

For a nation that produced the likes of Nick Farr-Jones and George Gregan, the modest stock of elite scrumhalves is concerning.

"Halfback is a specialist position. The ARU (Australian Rugby Union) needs to ensure there is a development pathway at Super Rugby level for future Wallabies number nines," former Australia flyhalf Mark Ella wrote in the Australian.

“There has to be a limit on the recruitment of foreign players in specialist positions.”

Frisby is unlikely to feel too comfortable about having made the grade, with Genia’s pedigree hard to overlook if he can prove his fitness in time for the southern hemisphere’s Rugby Championship which starts in August.

Having studied in the little master’s footsteps, Frisby may hope to employ Genia’s wisdom to keep him out of the squad.

"I feel very fortunate to have spent just about every day for four seasons following in Willy's footsteps," Frisby told Brisbane's Courier-Mail newspaper on Saturday.

“One of the best things he always stressed was to play your own game, no matter the game or situation, and that mentality is very important.”

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