SYDNEY – Playmaker Kurtley Beale has declared himself fit for this weekend’s Rugby Championship opener against New Zealand in what would be his first match for Australia for nearly two years.
Beale’s last match for his country was as a replacement in the 2015 World Cup final against the All Blacks, with injury having prevented him from pulling on the green and gold since.
Having recovered from a hamstring problem that prematurely ended his stint in England with Wasps in May, Beale said he was ready to face the world champions again in Sydney on Saturday.
“No nerves, just excitement, it’s great to be back in the Wallabies environment, training’s been good,” he told reporters at the Olympic Stadium on Wednesday.
“For me, I’m in a really good space at the moment and I’m looking forward to putting my best foot forward on Saturday.”
Beale is the last man standing of a trio of exciting young backs dubbed the “Three Amigos” who once offered Australia hope of a return to the days around the turn of the century when they had the best team in the world.
A miserable litany of off-field scandals and on-field slumps have seen the other two, James O’Connor and Quade Cooper, slide out of the Wallabies picture over the last two years.
Beale has been no stranger to disciplinary problems himself after punching his Melbourne Rebels captain in 2013, and playing an undistinguished role in the 2014 texting scandal that resulted in Wallabies coach Ewen McKenzie stepping down.
Michael Cheika rehabilitated him at the Waratahs, however, and reaped the benefits when he moved on to the Wallabies job.
Recast as a playmaking centre coming off the bench to test tired defences with his quick feet and eye for a gap, Beale was integral to Australia’s success in the truncated 2015 Rugby Championship and the World Cup that followed.
Cheika embarked upon an overhaul of his squad after the World Cup final defeat, however, and the team Beale is likely to return to on Saturday will be all but unrecognisable from the one that last beat the All Blacks in Sydney in 2015.
Now 28 with 60 caps under his belt, Beale is among the more experienced Wallabies players even if he appeared lukewarm about taking on the mantle of elder statesman.
“There’s a lot of new guys have come through over the last couple of years,” Beale added.
“Obviously, there’s a bit of responsibility there to help these young guys come through and help them out in their preparation and their mindset to tackle the week.
“But at the end of the day we’re all the same, players, and we’re all pointing to one thing.”
One familiar face is fullback Israel Folau, and Australians will be hoping the friends can reprise a partnership that worked so well when the Waratahs won the 2014 Super Rugby title.
“I’ve been looking forward to KB’s return for some time,” said Folau, who failed to score a try in last year’s Rugby Championship.
“I think we’ve got a great combination... We really just can’t wait to get out there and play.”