SYDNEY (Reuters) - Australia playmaker Kurtley Beale is rushing to be fit in time for the Wallabies’ Rugby Championship opener against the All Blacks in Sydney next week, the team have said.
Beale injured his hamstring playing for English club Wasps in May before he returned to Australia and was named in Michael Cheika’s squad for the southern hemisphere championship.
“Things are tracking nicely, but whether he’s right to go or not, we’ll have to wait and see next week,” assistant coach Stephen Larkham told Australia’s Fairfax Media on Sunday.
“He’s trained every day and he’s trained exceptionally well but we haven’t made selections as a coaching group. You want to see how they pull up over the weekend and how they come in on Monday.”
If fit, the 28-year-old is likely to rekindle his former New South Wales Waratahs combination with flyhalf Bernard Foley against the world champions, giving Cheika a dual playmaking option.
Larkham said that while the length of time Beale has been off the field would be a factor in their thinking when they named their side for the Aug. 19 clash, the fact that ‘KB’ had been training well removed some doubts about his readiness.
”There would be a risk with anyone coming back after that period of time and particularly if they didn’t train well,“ Larkham said. ”But KB has been one of our best trainers out there.
”He’s played with a number of these guys before and the combination out there on the field looks very natural for him.
“If he was down on fitness or strength or confidence, there’d be concern, but he’s not showing any of that at the moment.”
Larkham was not overly concerned about the lack of a specialist backup to Foley at flyhalf in the absence of the dropped Quade Cooper. Beale or Melbourne Rebels’ Reece Hodge could slot into that spot in the event of an injury to the Waratahs’ pivot, he said.
“There’s enough coverage there,” added Larkham.
”KB can play 10 and Hodgey can play 10, so there’s two back-up 10s there. Depending on selections, you’re looking at Bernard as our number one five-eighth at this stage.
“Hodgey has been training in and out of 10. The combination is working well.”
Reporting by Greg Stutchbury; Editing by Peter Rutherford