Date: August 20 2012
WALLABIES fullback Kurtley Beale is in serious danger of being dropped for the return Bledisloe Cup Test in Auckland on Saturday after an error-strewn performance against the All Blacks in Sydney.
After Beale turned in easily his worst Test display, when he appeared to suffer a series of brain explosions, the Wallabies selectors are considering revamping the Test back line, which was impotent at ANZ Stadium.
One option under consideration is to recall Quade Cooper at five-eighth, move Berrick Barnes from No.10 to inside-centre, bring reserve Drew Mitchell on to the wing, and transfer Adam Ashley-Cooper to fullback. Beale may instead play off the bench.
The Wallabies team management are concerned Beale's confidence would have suffered dramatically from his mistake-ridden effort, which included knock-ons, missed tackles and wrong options. It is a long time since a home crowd has targeted a Wallaby so vocally, with many of the 76,877 giving Beale a sarcastic cheer when he held on to the ball just before half-time after a string of mistakes.
The only thing that has saved Beale from being replaced was the lack of options on the Wallabies reserves bench, which only had two backs in its seven-man contingent.
While knowing Beale is one of their few real attacking threats, some in the Wallabies camp believe it will take some time for him to get over such a demoralising Test, and it would be wiser to play more settled individuals in an international the Wallabies must win to keep the Bledisloe Cup series alive.
The call for Cooper to return to the team will also be strong, especially as he would provide more midfield kicking options, and hopefully reignite a stagnant attack that has scored only six tries in five Tests this season. Australia's try on Saturday night came from a forward charge by veteran second-rower Nathan Sharpe.
Wallabies coach Robbie Deans talked to a demoralised Beale in the change rooms, and later at the team hotel. Asked the reason for Beale's form collapse, Deans said: ''There was nothing obvious. It will be one [game] he will be pretty keen to forget.''
Teammate Digby Ioane said after the game Beale was ''a bit sad''. ''But he'll learn off those mistakes, because he's the man,'' Ioane said.
Beale was recently embroiled in off-field dramas, last month appearing in Brisbane Magistrates Court on charges he assaulted a security guard at a popular hotel. The case was adjourned until August 22 in an attempt to resolve the matter through mediation.
Deans admitted team changes for Eden Park were inevitable. ''We will consider our combinations this week. Quade will be considered - no doubt about that. We've got to try to find ways to win, which isn't straightforward,'' he said.
Deans's frustration over a substandard performance was evident after the game and again yesterday. ''We'd have to be better. That wouldn't be too hard,'' Deans said. ''It's frustrating when there's two set-piece tries against us. It shouldn't happen. The team just didn't play well. We tried to play too much rugby down our end. No one can beat these blokes while making unforced errors and just giving them access to playing.''
But Ioane argues all is not lost, and the Wallabies still believe they are a chance of winning for the first time in Auckland since 1986.
''The All Blacks won the game from our mistakes. You have to control the ball. As I said last week, if you give them turnover ball, they will punish you. And that happened,'' Ioane said.
''I also believe we can do it because we turned over so many balls, and were still in the game. That's a positive thing. We just need to hold onto the ball to get heaps of phases.
''We know it's been a while in Auckland. Twenty-six years. You do think about that. You look at the past, and see all those Wallabies who have lost there, and you want to turn that around.''
Or, as Sharpe succinctly put it yesterday: ''I want to win the Bledisloe Cup before I'm done.''
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