Eddie Jones has been presented with the first major issue of his second reign as Wallabies coach with the news of Kurtley Beale’s suspension from the sport.
Beale, the 34-year-old who’s been one of Australia’s most gifted rugby backs and whose talents have long been admired by Jones, won’t be allowed to play in any form of rugby after being charged over an alleged sexual assault.
He was taken into custody by police on Friday over an alleged incident in Sydney’s east on December 17 last year.
Police received a report that a 28-year-old woman was sexually assaulted at a licensed premises on Beach Road, Bondi Beach.
Beale was arrested in a vehicle stop in Kingsford on Friday, taken to Waverley Police Station and later charged with two counts of sexually touching another person without consent, inciting another to sexually touch them without consent and sexual intercourse without consent.
Rugby Australia says Beale has been suspended from all forms of rugby with immediate effect pending the conclusion of legal proceedings.
“(The suspension from rugby) follows Mr Beale’s arrest and subsequent charge with serious criminal offences, and is in line with Rugby Australia’s Professional Player Code of Conduct,” said a statement from RA and Beale’s Super Rugby club, the NSW Waratahs.
“As this remains a legal matter, there will be no further comment until the conclusion of these proceedings.”
The charging of Beale has come just days after Jones’ second stint as Australia’s national coach was announced and in the week following the gifted playmaker taking part in a 44-man Wallabies training camp on the Gold Coast.
It was expected that the mercurial Beale, capped 95 times by the Wallabies, might be given a fresh lease of life under Jones after being omitted from Dave Rennie’s squad for the spring tour to Europe.
Beale last year returned to Australia after a spell at French club Racing 92, and in October he and wife Maddi celebrated the birth of their first son.
“Kurtley is the most wonderfully gifted player. He does things other players don’t even dream of,” Jones, who’s long talked in glowing terms of the veteran’s unique gifts on the rugby field, once said.
“He’s got that ability to make that big play. He just adds that extra dimension that you don’t know where he’s going to turn up in attack, you don’t know what he’s going to do and he does it with skill, he does it with pace, he does it with precision and a smile on his face.”
But Beale’s brilliance on the field has also often been accompanied by off-field controversies, and a long battle with alcoholism.