Waratahs five-eighth Kurtley Beale was lauded for his performance on Saturday night against the Reds, but expects Bernard Foley to slot straight back into the role of chief playmaker when he returns from injury.
And Beale has outlined his ambitions of securing a starting spot for the Wallabies as he prepares to do battle with a formidable ACT Brumbies backline on Friday in Canberra.
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The NSW Waratahs defeated the Queensland Reds 30-10 in their Super Rugby encounter at Allianz Stadium.
Waratahs coach Daryl Gibson said last week he had always planned to start Beale at No.10 and use Foley off the bench given he has just returned from a season in Japan and on the back of the World Cup.
A shoulder injury to Foley in the final trial match against the Highlanders meant Beale was required at five-eighth – a position hardly unfamiliar to him – but he doesn't expect to be there for the entire season.
"When Bernard does come back, I think he'd be slotting straight back into that 10 jersey," Beale said on Monday. "He's a quality player and I think my combination with him is working wonders. I feel good there at the moment."
Some of the highest praise heaped on Beale came from Reds coach Richard Graham after his side's 30-10 defeat to the Waratahs on Saturday.
"I think he's one of the best players in the world at actually assessing situations, summing up the opportunities, getting the space," Graham said. "His impact at this level and international rugby is top-class."
If Foley does come back into No.10, it is likely Beale will shift to inside centre – a spot he says he would like to make his own for the Wallabies come the June Test series against England.
But Beale knows he will be under even more pressure this weekend against a well-drilled Brumbies outfit who annihilated the Hurricanes 52-10 with five-eighth Christian Lealiifano and inside centre Matt Toomua in fine form.
"I think every player likes to start and be in that first XV, no doubt, and that's something I'll be looking to do this year. Hopefully later on down the track things will fall into place," said Beale, who came off the Wallabies bench five times in seven matches at last year's World Cup. "They [the Brumbies] are a great team and have got some quality players all over the park. They are the talk of the Australian conference and they've got all the experience [and] they've got all the attacking threat so they proved in the game against the Hurricanes."
Beale said the Waratahs were guilty of rolling through the motions in a stagnant second half after building a commanding 20-0 lead by the half-hour mark against the Reds. It is something he says they will need to address this week.
"Guys have got to be aware that the game is played for 80 minutes and there's no time for slacking off in different parts of the game because when we do come to better teams in the competition – teams with a lot of spark – we'll find ourselves cut short," Beale said. "We've got to be aware of that."
Beale's passing was crisp and his vision outstanding, but it was a bone-crunching, try-saving tackle on Reds winger Chris Feauai-Sautia which not only brought the crowd to their feet, but also pleased Gibson immensely.
"It was really body-on-the-line stuff which was fantastic in showing his teammates his commitment," Gibson said.
Beale was a little more coy about the strength and technique he showed.
"He's a great finisher and I had to just try and stop him, put my body on the line and that's exactly what I did. There was nothing special about it," Beale said. "I think my first intent was to push him to score in the corner and then I was surprised I got there in the end."
With Foley still two to three weeks away from a return, Beale is more than happy to see round one debutant David Horwitz flourish at second receiver for the time being.
"I thought he had an outstanding game on the weekend," Beale said. "[It was] a great debut run-on and definitely a kid on the rise and a kid that is very hungry to push the usual starting guys for their position. That's healthy competition."