Beale, Foley give Michael Cheika pause for thought
February 3, 2014
Incumbent Waratahs fly-half Bernard Foley hopes to see more action against the Blues in Sydney © Getty Images
Kurtley Beale pleased New South Wales Waratahs coach Michael Cheika in his return for the Super Rugby team, as the battle for the Tahs' No.10 jersey ramped up in their pre-season trial against Melbourne Rebels in Albury on Saturday.
Beale has made no secret of the fact that he prefers to play at fly-half, but the Wallabies star faces stiff competition from incumbent Bernard Foley, who impressed Waratahs coach Michael Cheika for the ''stability'' he introduced when he entered the action. ''He is the most experienced player for us,'' Cheika said of Foley. ''Of all the five-eighths trying out, he knows the game best. When he came on, he did pretty well. In that [third] quarter, we struggled a bit. He came on and squared us away … brought us back a bit of stability.''
Beale re-joined NSW for this season, after two disappointing years in Melbourne, where he battled disciplinary and alcohol-related issues and injuries, and he "had a few g'days from the boys at the bottom of a ruck, but they were all good," in his first match against his former team-mates as he played his first game since his shoulder reconstruction last August.
"I was more nervous before the game than I'd been in a long time because of my shoulder, but they made me focus a little bit more on my game," Beal said, adding that his shoulder came through well but he had "a lot of room to improve".
Cheika liked what he saw from Beale, who played half the match at five-eighth and then a quarter at fullback before briefly running in the centres.
Beale produced some nice touches, combining well with Ben Volavola, who was mostly at fullback, with Wallabies star Israel Folau rested, and Cheika said "he was pretty good".
"He was sharp and he made a few incisive breaks," Cheika said of Beale. "I thought it was a pretty positive first run." Beale said he felt right at home back at the Waratahs, with whom he played for five years after making his senior debut in 2007.
"The guys around me have really supported me and it allows me to be myself," he said. "I don't want to put too much pressure on myself but they're all great guys and I've known them for a long time so they have a good understanding of me."
Cheika would not say whether Foley or Beale would start against the Blues at Allianz stadium on Friday.
''I will have to see,'' he said. ''They will both play a bit at 10. I might even try playing them together a little bit.''
Foley said he draw on the experience gained from his elevation to Wallabies status last year.
''I will probably have to rely on the confidence from things I did last year,'' he said. ''But this competition between Kurtley and me, or throughout the whole backline … is good for the team.''
Foley said he hoped for a greater opportunity against the Blues after playing only 20 minutes in Albury.
''[Cheika] wanted to give everyone who had been around for the whole pre-season a good hit out,'' Foley said. ''That's fine, but looking to [Friday], hopefully things might be different.
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