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Kurtley Beale man to give Wallabies winning edge, says Ewen McKenzie

Smiling assassin: Wallabies No.10 Kurtley Beale.

Smiling assassin: Wallabies No.10 Kurtley Beale. Photo: AP

The search for a Bledisloe Cup-winning edge prompted Ewen McKenzie to dump match-winning playmaker Bernard Foley and hand the No.10 jersey to a resurgent Kurtley Beale for the first time in two years.

Beale is the fourth player to wear the Wallabies No.10 jersey since McKenzie took over a year ago, following in the footsteps of Matt Toomua, Quade Cooper and Foley at the helm of the Australian Test back line. 

He has not played there since a match-winning performance against Wales under Robbie Deans in Cardiff in 2012. He has started just seven games at five-eighth in a 42-Test career spanning almost five years. 

Super reward: Kurtley Beale is back in the Wallabies No.10 jersey for the first time since 2012.

Super reward: Kurtley Beale is back in the Wallabies No.10 jersey for the first time since 2012. Photo: Getty Images

But an outstanding season for the Waratahs and three decisive contributions off the bench in Australia's 3-0 sweep against France in June convinced McKenzie to tamper with a proven, winning formula. 

''One of the things I've learnt in this business is if you just sit there and look at the scoreboard, you can make lots of really simple decisions based on what the scoreboard was. But we recognised that playing France in June is different to playing the All Blacks in August,'' McKenzie said. 

''We have to keep challenging ourselves, not only in selection but in how we're going to play the game and our attitude during the game. We have to go out there and try to take the game on. We're not out there to try to not lose, we're actually out there to try to win. 

''We've made what some people might consider bold selections. I think they're good selections for what we want to do.''

Beale is just one of three new faces in a Wallabies back line that appears to be tailored for the defensive task ahead for the Wallabies in Saturday's opening Rugby Championship Test at ANZ Stadium. 

Brumbies winger Pat McCabe capped a miraculous return to Test rugby with selection on the wing alongside NSW utility Rob Horne, who steps in to fill the shoes left by the departed Nick Cummins.

Adam Ashley-Cooper was moved in from the wing to his preferred position of outside centre, joining No.12 Toomua, halfback Nic White and fullback Israel Folau as the remaining survivors of McKenzie's tactical overhaul. 

Brumbies centre and incumbent No.13 Tevita Kuridrani was named on the bench alongside Foley and Waratahs halfback Nick Phipps. 

McKenzie said it was difficult to break the news to a disappointed Foley on Monday evening. 

''It's one of the worst parts of the job, delivering selection news,'' he said. ''It's easy telling the guys that are in, but telling the guys who are out ... blind Freddy knew we weren't going to be able to fit everyone into the team.

''That's a good problem for Australian rugby but it's not such a good problem for the coach in terms of delivering the messages.'' 

McKenzie was pleased with the evolution of the Wallabies' attack last year, but has targeted a much tougher defensive front for the team this season.

The Wallabies conceded an average of four tries per Test against New Zealand across three games last year, even as they managed to crank up their potency in attack. 

Horne, McCabe, Ashley-Cooper and Toomua bring starch to the back line, while Beale – and his crook shoulder – passed a tough initiation at inside centre for the Waratahs. 

''If you look at the balance of the back line, I'm really pleased with the variety in attack and defence at what all players are going to bring,'' McKenzie said.

''They're good, hard, honest players that will take on the line in attack and they won't shirk it in defence. It gives us a really good unit to put some pressure on the All Blacks.''

Beale will share the goal-kicking duties with halfback White on Saturday. 

Western Force hooker Nathan Charles will make his maiden Test start, and Brumbies second-rower Sam Carter starts alongside Rob Simmons in his return from an ankle injury he suffered in his Test debut against France in June. 

Former Test captain James Horwill did not make the squad of 24, from which one player will be omitted on Friday. 

25 comments so far

  • I wish Stephen Moore, Henry Speight and Nick Cummins or Joe Tomane were in there but considering they're not, this is not a bad team. Matt Toomua needs a big game as his opposite
    number Ma Nonu seems to step up when in a black jersey. I hope the lack of a great goal kicker doesn't hurt us.

    Commenter
    Wobbles
    Date and time
    August 13, 2014, 12:26AM
    • Link, you were wrong about Beale in 2008, Deans was wrong about O'Connor against the Lions and you are wrong again now.

      Beale can't tackle, can't pass with length speed and accuracy left to right and can't kick goals. What does he actually offer as a starting player that wouldn't be better seen to advantage when All Black defenders are tiring.

      Commenter
      Mick
      Location
      Brisbane
      Date and time
      August 13, 2014, 4:48AM
      • Beale's injury in 2008 in the final was actually the turning point of the game... so i don't think Link was wrong about that. KB is a very talented player and has plenty to offer the team... he's shown this season his ability to put others through gaps, which has proven to be very effective esp. when you have the likes of Izzy running off him.

        Commenter
        nautitu8
        Date and time
        August 13, 2014, 7:03AM
      • Nailed it in one Mick, he is not a world class no.10. The reference to O'Connor is very apt in this context.

        Commenter
        Zaphod
        Date and time
        August 13, 2014, 8:45AM
      • Beale is a more talented footballer than Foley. I am glad that he is the starting fly-half, because he will give the Wallabies more attacking options. I am surprised that White is starting ahead of Phipps and just hope that he is not going to kick the ball away aimlessly. I am also concerned that we now have two backs in AAC and Horne who don't like passing the ball, but both deserve they places on solid form this year. I would also have preferred a more attacking player at wing instead of McCabe. The Wallabies have a solid looking defensive team with the likes of Toomua, Horne and McCabe in the backs. Go the Wallabies.

        Commenter
        Dekka
        Location
        Sydney
        Date and time
        August 13, 2014, 11:35AM
      • @nautitu8

        Beale is a very talented player. James O'Connor is a very talented player. That's not the question.

        A significant difference between the Waratahs and Crusaders a couple of weeks back was the the freedom afforded the likes of Beale courtesy of the boot of Foley. Foley's contributions allowed Beale to play with his tail up.

        I'd ask again, what does Beale

        Commenter
        Mick
        Location
        Brisbane
        Date and time
        August 13, 2014, 11:51AM
    • Good 15 overall but I have reservations about Beale's ability to continually tackle the AB's mid field and backrow. He would be far better coming off the bench late in the game, maybe with 15 or 20 mins to go. ACC won't pass a ball so will restrict some attacking opportunities out wide. And EVERYONE know you don't get many chances against the AB's?

      Commenter
      Hammer
      Location
      ACT
      Date and time
      August 13, 2014, 6:45AM
      • Too right Hammer.
        KB inconsistent, particularly in the national side.
        Weaknesses - defence and kicking.

        Commenter
        selector 2
        Date and time
        August 13, 2014, 8:40AM
    • Ewen - This is a stupid selection and a mistake. Foley is the best fly half we have produced since Bernie ... ABs will be laughing at you. Get rid of Tomua and put Foley back into no 10 and Beale at 12. Tomua off the bench.

      Commenter
      Occyman
      Date and time
      August 13, 2014, 7:25AM
      • You clearly have zero idea what you are watching. Foley played 10 about 30% of the time while Beale plays his position and most of Foley's for him. Will Skelton has sent more players through holes than Foley. Should never have been picked in the first place.

        Commenter
        Mike
        Location
        Sydney
        Date and time
        August 13, 2014, 9:49AM

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