KURTLEY Beale says he ''loves'' playing with the Melbourne Rebels, but the Wallabies star is not ready to publicly commit his future to the team in the lead-up to Friday night's clash with Australian benchmark the Brumbies at AAMI Park.
The Rebels caused a stir when they announced midway through 2011 that they had snared Beale from New South Wales. Since moving to five-eighth last year, during his first season at the club, Beale has been among the most impressive players for the Rebels.
Can the Tahs pip the mighty Reds?
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Can the Tahs pip the mighty Reds?
If the Waratahs win this weekend, the Reds will need to take a good, long look at themselves and all their myth-building.
The presence of two of the Wallabies' most exciting players in Beale and James O'Connor, whose contract also finishes at the end of this season, is vital to the Rebels' hopes on the field and also in attracting talent to Melbourne.
But there has been speculation Beale could head back to the Waratahs at the end of this season, in what would be a big blow for the Rebels.
Beale on Thursday was not prepared to discuss his future. ''I don't really want to talk about it at the moment because I think my role within the team is pretty important,'' he said. ''I've got a leadership role in trying to direct the boys around the park and my focus is purely on rugby at the moment.
''I've hired a manager to do all that kind of work. I'm sure [the Rebels' culture and style of play] will be a factor in deciding where I go, but at the moment I'm very happy with the Rebels.''
Asked how long it might be before a decision is made, Beale said: ''I'm not even sure. I'll sit down with my manager over the next week or so and we'll work out a plan.''
The duel between Rebels No. 9 Nick Phipps and Brumbies rival Nic White is looming as one of the key battles, with the pair vying to be the back-up to Test half-back Will Genia.
White had first crack in 2012, but when he was sidelined with a shoulder injury, Phipps made the most of his chance and finished the year as the first choice, replacing the injured Genia.
Beale was solid against the Force but coach Damien Hill will be looking for the Wallabies ace to stamp his authority on the game up against the classy Matt Toomua.
Beale is part of a Rebels back line that has the strike power to match the Canberra line-up, but the forwards' battle will decide whether he and speedsters O'Connor and Richard Kingi get the opportunities they crave.
''They are probably the benchmark,'' Beale said. ''Last year they started off very well, playing a very unique, simple game plan and it worked for them. We've done our homework and we know we've got to shut down some players.''
Meanwhile, Brumbies captain Ben Mowen knows what the Rebels have gone through this week in trying to devise a plan to counter Brumbies No. 7 David Pocock because he had to go through that process last year.
Pocock played seven seasons with the Western Force before defecting and playing his first game for the Brumbies last weekend. Mowen said he knew from personal experience that devising plans to stop Pocock were difficult.
''I think he's the best onballer in the world, without a doubt,'' Mowen said. ''It certainly helps to be built the way he's built and once he's over that ball you just can't move him.
''He's very good at picking the right moments to go in … when we [Brumbies] were playing against him last year, we had to spend a lot of time talking about him and trying to negate his influence. And I think in the game [against the Force] we got him down to two steals against us, which is a pretty bloody good result with him.
''That's just the quality of player he is and he attracts a lot of the attention from opposition players, so having him in the side is not only good for us in what he brings in giving us extra pill but in terms of the distractions he adds to the opposition.''