Beale 'super keen' on Wallabies comeback
IN THE SPOTLIGHT: Former Wallabies wing Drew Mitchell has backed his former teammate and long-time friend Kurtley Beale to make a return to test rugby.
Mitchell floated Beale’s name as a potential candidate to fill the Australian No 15 jersey after incumbent fullback Tom Banks suffered an arm fracture against the Springboks in Brisbane over a week ago.
Numerous contenders have since shaped up to fill the gap at fullback, with Reece Hodge earning starting honours in Australia’s clash against Argentina in Townsville over the weekend.
However, with another test against Los Pumas and an end-of-year tour of Japan and Europe coming up, others, including veteran playmaker James O’Connor and youngster Jordan Petaia, could all feature in the No 15 jersey over the next two months while Banks is sidelined.
Mitchell has put forward a left-field name in the form of Beale, though, as he said the Racing 92 star could rejoin O’Connor and recently-recalled pivot Quade Cooper in the Wallabies camp in what would be a reunion of the ‘Three Amigos’.
The star trio were the golden boys of the Wallabies between the late 2000s and early 2010s, but they haven’t all played alongside each other for Australia since the 2011 World Cup bronze final victory over Wales in Auckland.
Since then, all three players have endured various off-field issues, which robbed Cooper and O’Connor of many years in the Australian set-up.
In fact, of those three players, Beale appeared to be the only player who could maintain his place in the Wallabies squad as he amassed 92 test caps between 2009 and 2019.
By contrast, Cooper spent four years out of the Wallabies set-up before making a shock return ahead of this year’s Rugby Championship, while O’Connor didn’t play test rugby for six years before returning from England play at the 2019 World Cup.
Both players have shown immense growth in maturity since their unlikely international comebacks and were named in a Wallabies matchday squad alongside each other for the first time since 2013 for last weekend’s win over Los Pumas.
Like most onlookers, the influence of Cooper and O’Connor on the resurgent Wallabies hasn’t gone unnoticed by Mitchell, who wrote on social media that the addition of Beale to the Wallabies would compliment the impact of the former two players.
“From my conversations with Kurtley, he is super keen,” Mitchell told the Sydney Morning Herald.
“I think there was initial dialogue when Dave [Rennie, Wallabies head coach] came in but he’s got a fair bit on his plate. I don’t know if there has been much in recent times. Kurtley is more than hopeful there are more conversations to be had.
“I spoke to him as regularly as last night [Thursday]. He’s loved every opportunity he’s had to play for the Wallabies and he would love nothing more than to get more of an opportunity.”
Mitchell added that players based abroad who have been called into the squad by Rennie have also made an impact on the current Wallabies side, something of which he feels Beale would also be able to do.
“Overseas [based players] like Quade, [Samu] Kerevi and Izack Rodda these guys have come in and actually added to the squad. He feels – and I also feel – that he’d be someone who adds to the squad,”
The possibility of Beale, who has found himself in good form for Racing 92 since relocating to Paris after the most recent World Cup, turning out for the Wallabies may come to fruition on this year’s end-of-year tour.
Wallabies captain Michael Hooper alluded to that as a concept when he spoke to media about the challenges of touring amid the Covid-19 pandemic.
“I hear Kurtley’s been playing really well up in France,” Hooper said last week.
“We’ve seen with some of the guys that have come back in recent times the value they’ve added. Kurtley, with ball in two hands, is unbelievable
“If there’s appetite there from the coaching staff, I’m sure someone like that can add a huge amount to our team. In a Covid world, anything could happen.”
Regardless of whether Beale does in fact make a shock return to the field for the Wallabies after a two-year absence, Mitchell said the 32-year-old could still offer plenty in an off-field capacity as Australia take on Japan, Scotland, England and Wales.
“If they’re going to be up there, it’s a perfect opportunity for Dave Rennie to bring them in and have a look at them for three weeks of training if nothing else,” Mitchell said.
“Sit down and have genuine conversations around aspirations, so Dave gets an understanding of them as people rather than knowing of them from afar.
“We’ve got to tap into that now so that next year or leading into 2023 there are no more question marks.
“I think these players coming back from overseas are showing they can come back and add to the current group. I’ve obviously been a big advocate of picking your best players.
“I don’t mean you’re going to fill your first XV with players from overseas, they could just be guys who come in and play a role in the squad.”
By Sam Smith, Rugbypass