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Wallabies eye Beale as new Test five-eighth


Greg Growden

Perfect 10 ... Kurtley Beale is favourite to play at five-eighth for the Wallabies in the June Tests.

Perfect 10 ... Kurtley Beale is favourite to play at five-eighth for the Wallabies in the June Tests. Photo: Vince Caligiuri

KURTLEY BEALE is poised to take over the Test five-eighth spot due to James O’Connor’s unavailability for the Wallabies internationals in June, while Dan Vickerman’s playing future is again clouded.

In a frenetic day when the new Wallabies coaching panel was announced, it was revealed that O’Connor had lacerated his liver when he and Waratahs five-eighth Berrick Barnes collided heavily on Saturday night, which will sideline him for about two months.

Wallabies coach Robbie Deans also confirmed Vickerman has had a setback in his quest to return and it is not anticipated the experienced second-rower will be pressing for a Test spot this year.

Recurring problems with a leg injury could even force Vickerman, who earlier this season was considering giving the game away, to again contemplate retirement.

Wallabies management are already anticipating that O’Connor will miss the June internationals against Scotland and Wales, and with Quade Cooper also uncertain whether he will back on the field by then, the Test team is looking for a quality No.10.

Christian Lealiifano has been in excellent form with the Brumbies and is a contender, but the Herald has been told there is a push for Beale to be tried at pivot at Test level, especially as he played all of his early football in the No.10 jersey. It will become even more of a compelling issue if the Rebels are serious about their threat of dropping Danny Cipriani and moving Beale to five-eighth when they return from their bye and play the Bulls in Melbourne on May 4.

The Rebels have been concerned with Cipriani's erratic form in recent weeks and indicated that Beale is in line to take over as their starting playmaker. He moved from fullback to five-eighth when Cipriani was replaced in the second half of the Waratahs game and the Rebels were instantly more cohesive in attack.

Deans visited O'Connor in a Sydney hospital on Sunday and was impressed with how quickly he had recovered from such a major knock.

''We're just worried about some internal issues, but there at least are no broken bones, which is remarkable under the circumstances. He is a tough guy,'' he said yesterday.

When asked about Vickerman's progress, Deans replied: ''Not so good. The latest feedback on Dan is that he got the pin out [of his leg], and that helped him with his discomfort.

''He began to feel so comfortable that he began to move around, was running, and it looked reasonably promising. But he's got to the point where he is feeling discomfort again. So it's looking unlikely.''

Deans is one of Vickerman's biggest fans, but knows there's no point pushing him if he is not fully fit. ''If he was 100 per cent available and keen, you would look at him. But if he is not that, then it's difficult,'' Deans said.

Deans was speaking at an announcement wher Tony McGahan, Andrew Blades and Nick Scrivener were yesterday named as his assistant coaches for the international season, which starts with a match against Scotland in Newcastle on June 5.

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