EVEN with an assault charge hanging over his head, Kurtley Beale is expected to return to the Wallabies line-up at fullback for the third and final Test against Wales at Allianz Stadium on Saturday.
Wallabies coach Robbie Deans gave enough indications yesterday that, as long as Beale can prove his fitness in Sydney early this week, he will be selected in the Test team, probably at fullback instead of Adam Ashley-Cooper, who will move onto Cooper Vuna's wing.
Vuna faces a SANZAR judiciary today for a dangerous tackle on Welsh fullback Leigh Halfpenny and, even in the unlikely event he gets off, the winger appears certain to be dropped for Beale, or even Luke Morahan.
This is in spite of Beale again being in trouble for an off-field incident. The Australian Rugby Union was alerted by police shortly before the start of Saturday night's Test that Beale had been charged with assault following an alleged scuffle at a Brisbane hotel.
Beale, who has been sidelined for a month with a damaged shoulder, is alleged to have been involved in an altercation with a security guard outside the Victory Hotel in the early hours of the morning before the first Australia-Wales Test.
The ARU has halted its disciplinary process relating to Beale until the police matter is resolved, and he remains available for the Wallabies and the Rebels.
Deans does not appear deterred by Beale's off-field problems, and clearly wants to pick him.
When asked where Beale would fit in, Deans said: ''Fifteen is the obvious spot.
''Adam [Ashley-Cooper] has done very well at fullback, but we'll make a plan this week. Kurtley is a class player so, if he is fit, he will clearly have a jersey on. We just have to make the decision whether it is a starting role, or off the bench. It will be good to have a bloke of his class back in the mix. He adds a lot of excitement to the group, a lot of finish. He is also good under the ball, which is an element we have to improve on.''
Deans said the return of Beale would not dramatically change the way the Wallabies play, ''but it might add to some of the stress on the Welsh''.
After twice repelling a fast-finishing Welsh team, Deans said it was imperative to end the series perfectly by excelling in Sydney to achieve a 3-0 clean sweep.
''We're going into the toughest rugby championship ever, and Wales are the perfect lead-up opponent. They play as close to the southern hemisphere game as there is,'' Deans said.
''But that is no surprise because [coach] Warren [Gatland] has been there for a while. You just don't get it all your own way when you're up against a side that is as fit and resilient as the Welsh. You've only got to look at the Six Nations performances, with some of their victories revolving around them simply hanging on longer and profiting late in the game. Most of their tries are scored in the second half. Those things don't happen by chance.''
What delighted Deans most was that the Wallabies, who enjoyed the speed game in Brisbane, adapted to a more physical match in Melbourne.
''The Scots and the Welsh have been very destructive around mauling, but the blokes had the composure, won the ball, and then were composed in creating balance and momentum,'' he said.
''Once you get those things working, they're tough to stop. Our work around the breakdown was also good. There was a physical challenge issued, and we met it sufficiently to get home.''
But Wales will be more dangerous in Sydney.
''They came to Australia with high expectations and with good reason. So they'll be devastated that the series is over, and they'll be dangerous … it will make us dangerous because both sides will be unshackled.''