Kurtley Beale says he is excited by the added competition presented by Andrew Kellaway as he targets a return against the All Blacks in late September.
Beale, 33, touched down in Sydney last Friday and was up in Queensland on Monday to check in with Wallabies officials as he recovers from a hamstring rupture after his body was “disrespected” by French clubs driven by success from their private owners.
It was an apt time for Indigenous star to mark his return given the celebration of NAIDOC week, where the Wallabies will wear their First Nations jersey for the second Test against England in Brisbane on Saturday.
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Beale spent the past month traveling Europe after his time at Paris-based club Racing 92 came to a premature end earlier this year because of injury.
It was the last European summer he will taste for some time because the three-time World Cup member has set his sights on a fourth campaign after signing on to join Darren Coleman’s Waratahs for 2023.
It came after a relatively successful return to the national team during last November’s frustrating spring tour, where the Wallabies lost all three Tests.
But for Beale, the return to the Wallabies program under Dave Rennie “lit the fire” inside and showed he can still succeed on the international stage after a strong performance to round out the tour in Cardiff.
“There’s always one eye on the Wallabies jersey,” he said.
“I went to Europe, playing the Heineken Cup, TOP 14, (it’s) tough rugby.
“Testing yourself against the best, mentally you’re away from your family so it was a new challenge for me and it made me more aware of where I wanted to be and what I wanted to do at the back-end of my career and that’s to represent my country at the highest level, and there’s a few accolades I’d like to achieve in the game as well.
“I’ve always said another World Cup would be nice, obviously after the disappointment in Japan (2019), Bledisloe (success), it could be the last, so those are the things you want to be watching up for.”
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Beale said Rennie was “transparent” during last year’s November Tests and added that the New Zealander’s “personal” approach to coaching was paying off, pointing to the Wallabies’ composure during their backs-against-the-wall win over England in Perth.
“He’s a calm, collected guy and he gets the best out of you by having that individual personal touch,” he said.
“I think you saw that in the performance on the weekend the guts, the character just came out of the guys, they were led well, they were calm, there was no panic and the guys got the job done and you want to be a part of that.
“You do feel there’s something brewing here and, for me, towards the back-end of my career now you want to try and be involved those moments because you don’t know when the last one will be.”
Few exemplified those calm characteristics more than Kellaway – Beale’s former teammate at NSW who took the long road to international rugby by playing in three countries before landing on his feet in Melbourne – who was exceptional at fullback, having shifted from the wing following Tom Banks’ broken arm.
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Kellaway has always craved the No.15 jersey and after Banks’ horrific injury, which could spell the end of his international career given he is heading to Japan at season’s end, the 26-year-old has the chance to make the position his own .
He could in fact prove to be the perfect man to solve the conundrum in the position, which has seen multiple players, including Beale, try to fill the lofty shoes of Israel Folau since his departure from the game in 2019.
In-between the athleticism of Marika Koroibete and Jordan Petaia, who will likely come into the starting side on the wing for the second Test following his starring role in their 30-28 win last weekend, Kellaway’s silky skills, safe hands and shrewd awareness could be the perfect foil in the land of giants around him.
Beale paid tribute to Kellaway’s performance on Saturday, where he set-up their first try for Petaia and earlier put prop Angus Bell through a hole, and said he would push his teammate for the role when he returns in eight weeks’ time.
“I’m a bit of a competitive bloke, stubborn in my own ways to try and push and fight for a position,” he said.
“No doubt, Kellaway stepped up, I thought he did brilliantly.
“I think those couple of classy touches, that try for Jordy, those hands were very silky.
“He’s been in and around the group, he’s steady and he’s succeeding but I’ll be doing everything I can to create an environment and the competitive competition within to make it better.”
Meanwhile, utility forward Pete Samu said the Wallabies wouldn’t try to retaliate in Brisbane after Darcy Swain was goaded into headbutting Jonny Hill.
The incident saw Swain red carded.
But Samu, who scored the match sealing try for the Wallabies, said they were only focused on winning the series on Saturday.
“I don’t think (so),” having asked whether they would try to “hit back” to Eddie Jones’ tactics.
“We don’t focus too much on that side of the game.
“We try to give them a smile back and get on with our jobs.”