Kurtley Beale’s torn hamstring stands to cripple Australia’s chances as much as his own for the defining Rugby World Cup semi-final clash against New Zealand.
A back three without king Kurtley might hold its own, at best.
But that’s not good enough for this do-or-die encounter.
Beale’s blessing is his capacity to ask the hard questions of the best defenses, and to penetrate with clinical proficiency. It’s also fair to say that on every occasion the Wallabies have failed to fire, Beale has been the exception.
But Beale is out after failing to recover in time. Coach Robbie Deans gave Beale maximum recovery time, knowing how critical Beale’s presence is in this sudden-death playoff.
Deans said at the time: “It will be tough on Kurtley if he has to miss this one, but we will take no chances. If he can’t play, he will contribute off the field as he always does. Adam and Ant are both good men.”
“Good men” is a fair description of Ashley-Cooper and Anthony Faingaa. But Robbie needs “great men”, not “good men” for the pending assignment. Because their opposites are on par with greatness and come in the form of Israel Dagg, Richard Kahui and Cory Jane.
Robbie’s outlook for Kurtley wasn’t particularly hopeful and all hope was extinguished this morning. The ‘slight hamstring tear’ takes requires more than a week to mend and not the kind of ailment that can be played around, as it would have limited Beale’s radical range of motion, which is what sets him apart from most rugby mortals.
Anthony Faingaa comes into the backline while Ashley-Cooper drops back to No15. And with that arrangement, Australia’s threat level from the rear drops from ‘serious’ to ‘medium’ at best.
Fortunately for Australia, the mad musing around giving Quade Cooper license in the No15 jersey has been wisely discounted.
Notwithstanding, the heat goes on super Cooper to significantly up his game, which to this point, has been rather underwhelming.
The problem for Australia though, is if it hits the fan in the caldron of RWC headquarters Eden Park, Quade won’t have Beale to bail him out.