At the beginning of the year, while envisaging a pre-COVID season, Dave Rennie explicitly highlighted that Michael Hooper would need to earn his starting Wallabies position and captaincy, which had previously been bestowed without question.
Wallabies fullback Kurtley Beale is delighted his previously maligned defence is getting some good reviews after he pulled off a series of try-saving tackles in Saturday’s Sydney club rugby grand final.
Beale, who can be expect to be named on Monday in the 40-man Wallabies training squad for their upcoming spring tour, made at least three last-ditch tackles.
Sadly it was to no avail as his Randwick side were crushed 46-6 by Sydney University, but for once Beale’s defence was a positive talking point.
Renowned for his attacking flair, Beale has often been criticised for ordinary defence, but the Waratahs star revealed he had been working hard on that aspect of his game.
“It’s been a problem for a while, now I’m just going to always keep turning up and working on my defence, working on my weaknesses,” Beale said.
“It’s good to see people saying that I am actually tackling now.”
Several other spring tour contenders had their final opportunity to impress watching Wallabies coach Robbie Deans.
Among them was Randwick’s Test prop Sekope Kepu.
The Waratahs frontrower played his only three Tests to date over the last two spring tours, but was sidelined for two and a half months of this year by a calf injury he suffered in the latter part of the Super 14 tournament.
Kepu has returned to club rugby in recent weeks.
He was hoping that for the third straight year he would receive a call confirming his place in the Wallabies training squad a day after a grand final loss to University.
“I’m happy with the form, but at the end of the day it’s up to the selectors,” Kepu said.
With Deans having blooded so many players over the last two and half years, he is unlikely to unveil a large contingent of uncapped men in his training squad.
University centres Mitch Inman and Tom Carter did their selection prospects no harm with rousing efforts in the grand final.
Another University player, hooker Nathan Charles, is also a potential bolter.
One recent Wallaby who could come back into calculations is utility back Julian Huxley, who capped off a successful comeback season after two years out with a brain tumour.
Huxley returned to Super action with the Brumbies this year and was playing well in Sydney club rugby with University.
However, he was out for around six weeks with a groin injury and only made his return in the grand final lack of recent play could count against him at the Wallabies selection table.
Even before starting his comeback Huxley stated his desire to return to Test level and that hasn’t diminished since resuming his career.
“I don’t know if that (playing the grand final) was enough to get me on the spring tour, but I’ll just keep trying to get back to that level, that’s all I can do,” said Huxley, who is scheduled to join the Melbourne Rebels this week.