All grown up … Kurtley Beale has attracted lavish praise from Wallabies coach Robbie Deans in the lead in to Saturday’s Bledisloe Test at Suncorp Stadium. Photo: Reuters
Robbie Deans has lauded the efforts and the maturity of his new No.10, Kurtley Beale, in a clear sign he has heartily embraced a new playmaker while moving on from the old.
Beale has impressed in his recent outings as the Wallaby five-eighth but faces an entirely new challenge on Saturday night, when he will shoulder the bulk of creative duties against the All Blacks in Brisbane.
The Rebels star has taken the No.10 jumper from close friend Quade Cooper, who is recovering from minor knee surgery and is contemplating his future after voicing his displeasure at the Australian Rugby Union and Deans.
While Cooper and Deans remain firmly estranged, the Wallaby coach was quick to lavish Beale with praise, saying the 23-year-old had matured greatly as a man off the field and that he cares about his teammates.
Cooper's name did not come up as Deans fronted the media at the Wallaby team announcement yesterday but he made it crystal clear he has enjoyed the work of Beale and regards him as a long-term player at five-eighth.
''He's loving the challenge,'' Deans said. ''It's not easy - there's a lot of homework required. It's a role that requires Kurtley to think for the team, not just himself, but he's doing that.
''He's doing his homework. The amount of interaction and communication within the group has just escalated out of necessity, pre-training as well as in training. It's a challenge that he's enjoying and he's meeting. He's perfectly capable of continuing to thrive.''
Beale has had his share of troubles off the field, a few of them with Cooper in close proximity. He faced court in July after an alleged altercation with a bouncer at The Victory Hotel in Brisbane. Beale is trying to enter mediation with the bouncer but will face a common assault charge if the matter cannot be settled.
Deans said Beale had lived a ''colourful life'', but stressed his teammates loved being around him in the Wallaby camp.
''To see the growth in the man [is pleasing], as much as anything. The game is one thing, but to see the growth in him … it is great to see,'' Deans said.
''It translates off the field. He's had a colourful life, but he's a bloke who cares, very much … he's an emotional being. But he's a bloke his teammates love being around, for that reason. He cares about them as well.''
Meanwhile, Sunday could be D-Day for injured openside breakaway David Pocock, who has ''no idea'' if he will be fit enough to make the Wallabies' end-of-season tour of Europe.
Pocock remains touch and go after undergoing knee surgery in late August and will consult the Wallabies' medical team after Saturday night's clash.
While Deans is hopeful Pocock will play some part in Australia's four-Test tour, starting against France in Paris on November 10, the champion No.7 is not so sure.
''I'm not holding my breath,'' Pocock said. ''You always hope that you can get back on the field and play but whether that's realistic I'm not sure."