After a long and rocky road back to the top flight, Kurtley Beale is once again in the box seat to wear the coveted Wallabies No.10 jersey.
Beale last started at five-eighth against Wales at the end of 2012, scoring a try in the corner to seal a thrilling victory at Millennium Stadium.
Injuries and a host of off-field issues for the then-Rebels playmaker threatened to derail his Test career and a botched kick for goal in the first Test against the British and Irish Lions last June was not the return to the gold jersey he was hoping for.
A shoulder reconstruction robbed him of further involvement under new coach Ewen McKenzie last year. But on Wednesday it was McKenzie – the coach who originally installed him in the chief playmaking role as a teenager at the Waratahs – who indicated he would return him there at Test level.
“He’s certainly embraced what the Waratahs are about and it suits him, he can make things happen and it’s good reward for him,” McKenzie said. “I’ve met with him recently but the last conversation I had with him before that was to say ‘get your shoulder fixed’.
“He’s come back well from that mentally and being able to be very influential week in, week out. He’s a very important player there and I know what he’s capable of, and I know the No.10 position is near and dear to him, so he’ll be very keen to stake a claim.”
After injury forced the withdrawal of Quade Cooper, Beale will battle it out for selection with NSW teammate Bernard Foley. McKenzie named the pair as his only options at No.10 – Brumbies five-eighth Matt Toomua pointedly marked as a centre option alongside Christian Leali’ifano and incumbent Test No.13 Tevita Kuridrani.
“I’ve deliberately nominated certain players for positions,” McKenzie said. “That will help the armchair selectors try and understand how we think. We invested in [Foley] last year and he was in and around the squad all the time. He’s got all the right characteristics. I remember in Argentina when he got his first cap, it was an emotional moment and you want to see that. That’s the attitudinal piece.
“He’s a very professional operator with lots of skills. Yeah, it’s been a reasonably quick climb for him, but not surprising. He got an opportunity last year, took it and he’s still there.”
Dual international Israel Folau was never in doubt for selection at fullback but Brumbies No.15 Jesse Mogg was notably absent. McKenzie scoffed at speculation Mogg and Toomua were victims of the Brumbies’ conservative game plan.
“It’s more about [Mogg’s] consistency in his game,” McKenzie said. “There were bits and pieces I spoke to him about, the game style doesn’t have much to do with it, it’s more about his individual contribution and consistency.”
This story Administrator ready to work first appeared on Nanjing Night Net.