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'Contact made': Beale sounded out about emergency Wallabies return

By AAP
(Photo by Getty Images)

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Kurtley Beale has been sounded out for a Wallabies return as coach Dave Rennie grapples with the late tour withdrawal of Samu Kerevi, Sean McMahon and possibly Quade Cooper. Japan-based centre Kerevi and backrower McMahon were both selected for Tests against Scotland, England and Wales next month after the loosening of Rugby Australia’s eligibility rules allowed them to return for the Rugby Championship.

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But on Tuesday Rennie confirmed the nervous pair would instead honour their Suntory club’s wishes and remain in Japan ahead of a January kick-off with the Top League powerhouse. Cooper, too, has remained in Japan and Rennie will speak with his Kintetsu Liners club on Wednesday in the hope of gaining access to the five-eighth.

Australia play Scotland on November 7 and have won five straight Tests since Cooper’s shock recall, while Kerevi was monumental in four appearances before missing Saturday’s win over Japan with an ankle injury. The three Tests fall within an international window, but Rennie is wary of overstepping given neither Kerevi nor McMahon were eligible to play for the Wallabies when first signed by Suntory.

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“The whole time the boys had said that they wanted the support of the club, to say they were happy for them to go,” Rennie said when asked if the decision had caught him off guard. “They did mention (during the Rugby Championship) they were nervous about how their clubs would respond to them touring.

“They have loved their time but they have made a decision based on what their club needs. It is disappointing… we were keen to get a bit more out of them late in the year, but they’ve made their call based on the desire of the clubs and we’ve just got to get on with things.”

With Reece Hodge joining fellow full-back Tom Banks on the long-term injury list, the Wallabies backline stocks are thin. Rennie said he had spoken with France-based Beale, who played the last of 92 Tests for the Wallabies in 2019, on Monday about joining the squad as one of the potential several overseas-based reinforcements. Tolu Latu, Rory Arnold and Will Skelton have already been recalled from their French clubs in further exemptions to the Giteau Law that were approved by the RA board. 

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“We have made contact with Kurtley and we have had conversations with Kurtley over a period of time, he has made it really clear his desire to be a Wallaby again. With the introduction of some of the guys he played with previously he was pretty excited by that,” said Rennie about the prospect of Beale being involved with the Wallabies again after a two-year layoff.

Rennie said Covid-19 had allowed RA to test the waters with their selection of overseas players and, while this incident had created headaches, may not be a long-term issue. “It’s in its infancy from a Wallaby perspective,” Rennie said. “The Argentinians and South Africans pick most of their squad out of Europe and clubs sign those players knowing they’re going to lose them at various times. It’s potentially a complication at the moment that could remedy itself over time.”

Rennie said in-form winger Andrew Kellaway had the inside running to wear the No15 against Scotland after filling in for an injured Hodge against Japan. But he was impressed by Jordan Petaia’s solid performance on the wing, again saying that he’d like to see the Queensland Reds talent deployed at full-back next Super Rugby season before trying him there at Test level.

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