CANBERRA – Kurtley Beale is shaping as a key man with the Wallabies chasing a morale-boosting first win in the Rugby Championship against Argentina, assistant coach Stephen Larkham said on Friday.
Beale has been Australia’s man-of-the-match in their last two games since his return from British club rugby with Wasps, where injury restricted him to just 12 games. Yet he still managed to steer them into the Premiership final.
Larkham, a former Wallabies flyhalf playmaker, said he could not be more pleased with Beale’s efforts ahead of Saturday’s Test in Canberra.
“He adds a very important link in our game, Bernard (Foley) and Willy (Genia) are controlling everything in tight, and KB’s (Beale) the man who calls for the ball when it’s on out wide,” Larkham told reporters.
“I think the guys outside the inside backs are now appreciating the fact there’s a distributor there, someone with really good vision, but also some attacking flair, so he’s created a lot of opportunities on his own.
“We couldn’t be happier with the way that he’s performed so far.”
Foley said the Wallabies had benefited enormously from Beale’s season abroad.
“He has spoken about that, how he learned a lot about how they play up there and how they want to build pressure, how they start the game and try to play that territory-style and build it from the start of the game,” Foley said.
“That has definitely added to his mindset and allowed him to complete himself. He sees the game a bit differently. Add that to the way he likes to attack, and the whole experience was a real bonus.”
Beale scored a try, but it was his kicking game that was influential as the Wallabies were held to a 23-23 draw by the Springboks in Perth last week.
“Having that experience overseas has allowed him to grow as a player and bring back a well-rounded game. That’s exactly what is needed in the heat of the battle,” Foley added.
Larkham said the Wallabies’ anxiety about closing out games contributed to their undoing in a heart-breaking 35-29 loss to New Zealand and their draw with South Africa, after giving up a 10-point lead.
“We’d spoken about the last couple of games where we probably had an opportunity to win them and didn’t, and maybe some guys were thinking about outcomes in the final few minutes of the game,” Larkham said.
“We want to make sure that thought process is not in the players’ minds at all, so in our preparation leading into this game, it’s certainly not about the outcome – it’s about the way we prepare and play on the day.”
Coach Michael Cheika’s team have won only two of their six internationals this season, but have won 13 of their last 14 games against the Pumas.
The Wallabies have lost only once to Argentina in 13 Tests at home, but the Pumas traditionally given them problems, particularly during the scrum.