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Injuries and departures give Beale room to make his mark as playmaker

THE push for Kurtley Beale to take over the Wallabies Test five-eighth spot next month will turn into a massive shove if he holds his own against Springboks No.10 Morne Steyn in tonight's match against the Bulls in Melbourne.

With Quade Cooper sidelined and James O'Connor not expected to have recovered from his liver damage in time for the June internationals against Scotland and Wales, the Wallabies selectors are seriously considering moving Beale from fullback to five-eighth - especially as he played most of his formative football as a pivot.

Beale is a natural choice to also take over as the Rebels five-eighth, following the franchise's decision this week that Danny Cipriani would be allowed to return to Britain early. Before Cipriani and the Rebels opted to part, there were strong suggestions that their troubled England Test representative would not have made the squad for the Bulls match, after being unimpressive in their last loss against the Waratahs.

Beale should provide better consistency in their midfield play and certainly more forthright defence than Cipriani.

When Rebels coach Damien Hill was asked yesterday what he was hoping from Beale, he replied: ''Some directness in our play.

''In the two back-end of games where we've had him move into No.10, he's really straightened us up and got us over the advantage line early. That is what we will look after again against the Bulls.''


Hill also knows how important this match is for Beale's aspirations to take over as the Wallabies playmaker.

''Any games against teams where there are players representing South Africa or New Zealand always bring an extra element out in their opposites, and I'm sure that will be in the back of Kurtley's mind as well,'' he said.

Beale will also have the other amigo still at the club nearby providing guidance if required. O'Connor will sit on the sideline with the Rebels reserves, and be wired up so that he is in close contact with the coaching staff and players. Like Cooper with the Reds, O'Connor will be the team's authoritative sideline eye.

''For a young bloke, James's knowledge of the game is excellent,'' Hill said. ''He's been involved with us strategy-wise, and we'll have him wired up on game day to get his imput. He's keen to stay involved with the team off the field as much as he can, offer any help he can with training sessions and the games.''

The Rebels are expecting O'Connor, who damaged his liver when he collided with Berrick Barnes in the Waratahs match in Sydney, will return to play against the Reds in Melbourne on June 29.

''He is in regular contact with a specialist down here. We're not quite sure whether he will get back in time for the June Tests, but we're very confident he will be right for the Reds,'' Hill said.

Manly second-rower Cadeyrn Neville has also been promoted.