Waratahs coach Darren Coleman has confirmed NSW Rugby and Rugby Australia are currently in talks to bring star fullback Kurtley Beale back to Australia following reports in France the Wallaby has indicated he wants to pass up a contract extension at Racing 92.
The 33-year-old has spent two seasons in France, after he left the Waratahs in 2020, but after he was parachuted into the Wallabies UK Tour at the end of 2021 under new coach Dave Rennie, he now has he sights set on a fourth World Cup campaign.
If he is to return the fullback has made it clear he will be seeing out the end of his Racing contract, which makes him unavailable for the Waratahs in 2022.
“We’ve been chatting with Kurtley for a good while now, as has Dave and everyone else and it’s getting really close, I don’t think it’s official or it’s completely over the line yet, but it’s looking OK,” Coleman told reporters on Tuesday.
“There’s no chance he’ll be here for 2022 for Super Rugby. How he works it with Dave for his Wallaby commitments that’s between them, but my chats with him have only been around him honoring his contract and finishing at Racing, which is at the end of our season.
“If we do get him back, which I really hope we do, it’ll be ’23 only.”
Currently on a big money salary in France, Beale will be taking a substantial pay cut on his return to Australia, with or without an RA top up, and Coleman believes this proves how invested he is in rebuilding the Waratahs and the Wallabies.
“Even if RA didn’t want to top him up and I imagine those conversations are happening, it wouldn’t go near on what he’s on at Racing, so I think if he makes the decision to come home, top up or no top up, he’ll be taking a pretty significant haircut and to me that just speaks volumes of fact he wants to be at the ’23 World Cup and I’d like to think he wants to be here to help us rebuild our team as well ,” he said.
In another boost for the Waratahs, former Wales center Jamie Roberts has signed on with the team as an injury replacement, covering for the losses of young players Joey Walton and Mosese Tuipolotu. He’s expected to arrive in Australia in early February as the team begins preparations for the 2022 season.
Coleman said the opportunity to sign the international talent was too good to refuse, and rejected any question the Waratahs should have been focusing on their forward pack instead of their backline.
“The stars aligned a bit on that one. Jamie is a big time player, he’s come purely out of necessity, so I probably don’t agree with you on where we needed to bulk up,” Coleman said.
“We’ve got Geoff Cridge in our locks, our forwards have got two plus in every position, so we’re comfortable with the numbers in our squad in all positions, but once we lost Joey Walton on top of Mosese Tuipolotu, the center is a spot in the cupboard that was really bare.
“We trialed a few guys through the summer and then the stars just aligned with Jamie. We’d had some conversations about him potentially coming, I’d met him through a friend in LA, I wasn’t thinking for this year, but once we lost Joey I reached out.”
Roberts will play his final game for the Dragons on Friday night before he makes the trip to Australia and Coleman is yet to determine whether he’d be a starter alongside either Izaia Perese or Lalakai Foketi, both of whom just made their Wallabies debuts last year .
“Whether he starts or not, that remains to be seen,” he said. “I’ve spoken to the incumbents in Lalakai, Joey and Izzy and everyone is super excited to have a player of 90 odd test caps and British Lions tours. It’s not as if he’s been sitting around doing nothing, he may not be at his physical best of what he was 6-7 years ago, but he’s still playing a high level of professional rugby in the championship.
“He started every game to the Dragons, playing big minutes, he’s contributed and it’s not like we picked him on name alone we went and watched him play his last seven or eight games and besides the fact of what he’ll add on the field , our young group will get a lot from his 13 or 14 years of professional rugby, he’s got a lot of knowledge there.”
The Waratahs play their first trial match of 2022 against the Brumbies on Saturday in Bowral.