Beale suffers new harsh Wallabies cut
Crowned the Wallabies’ best player a year ago, Kurtley Beale’s dramatic form slump has seen him dropped for a second time in a month.
The reigning John Eales Medallist, Beale is now a mere fringe player for Australia after Berrick Barnes, with no representative No.15 experience, was shifted to fullback for Saturday night’s Rugby Championship clash with Argentina on the Gold Coast.
Barnes’ red-hot goalkicking boot and hard-running centre Pat McCabe’s recovery from a foot injury combined to convince coach Robbie Deans to dump Beale to the bench.
It’s the second time in three Tests the 23-year-old will be a reserve after being dropped following his tournament-opening shocker against New Zealand in Sydney.
Deans admitted it was a tough decision, and Beale’s exciting attacking game would be best suited to the end of the Skilled Park encounter, but it still highlights how far he’s fallen.
The underdone Melbourne Rebels star could be forgiven for his disappointing display in the first Bledisloe loss following six weeks on the sidelines, but he’s failed to redeem himself sufficiently in his two hours of play in the past two Tests.
Wallabies playmaker Quade Cooper jumped to Beale’s defence on Tuesday, claiming his good friend had been harshly judged by critics.
“I don’t think he hasn’t been playing well,” Cooper said. “It’s just the way the games have panned out haven’t been the best for any of the back three.
“They haven’t had much opportunity and it’s been difficult for them and Kurtley is a player that has a lot of expectation.
“If he goes out there and has a normal game it’s perceived not to be his best game because he’s not doing the spectacular things he’s renowned for.”
McCabe has been a Deans’ favourite since he made his Test debut at inside centre last year and returns to the international arena following just 33 minutes of club rugby in the Canberra grand final on the weekend.
His recovery had also left Barnes vulnerable, especially as he was the main culprit for a series of ill-advised grubber kicks within Australia’s half in the 26-19 win over South Africa in Perth.
A five-eighth or playmaking No.12, Barnes has only played fullback for Sydney University in his return from concussion problems last year.
But Deans indicated his remarkable 25 from 29 success rate as Wallabies goalkicker this year, including six from six against the Springboks, was a key factor in his retention ahead of Beale.
“Berrick’s been kicking very well so he’s been an important part of our game turning over the scoreboard and Kurtley will be a great bloke to have entering the game late against tiring bodies,” he said.
Halfback Nick Phipps and lock Kane Douglas are the other starting changes due to injuries to Will Genia and Sitaleki Timani while hooker Stephen Moore was ruled out after failing to recover from a hamstring strain.
Genia’s imminent knee reconstruction will see Nathan Sharpe, the only current Wallaby to have played the Pumas before way back in 2003, captain Australia for the third time – and first in seven years.© AAP 2013
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