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By Ian Ransom
MELBOURNE May 9 Kurtley Beale's hopes of earning selection for the Wallabies against the British and Irish Lions have been jeopardised after the troubled back was stood down from Super Rugby side Melbourne Rebels on Thursday for a second breach of discipline this season.
The 24-year-old was sidelined for more than a month for punching two team mates in an alcohol-fuelled incident in South Africa in March and will miss at least another week in his latest suspension, coming days after his contrite return to the team.
"Simply, there were a series of behavioural guidelines that he signed up to, and they've been breached," Rebels CEO Rob Clarke told Reuters by telephone, without providing details.
"He's accepted responsibility for it."
Clarke declined to comment on the nature of the breaches, but local media reported that Beale broke a team-imposed alcohol ban by drinking at a social function with close friends at the weekend, which included at least one Rebels team mate.
Beale, one of the brightest talents in the Wallabies' star-studded backline, has been stood down for the Rebels' match against the Blues this weekend, and is likely to face further sanction after the team consults with the Australian Rugby Union and the players' association.
Sydney-born Beale was sent home from South Africa in disgrace after punching Welsh captain Gareth Delve and fellow back Cooper Vuna on a team bus following the Rebels' record 64-7 drubbing by the Durban-based Sharks.
He was stood down indefinitely and ordered to undergo counselling but made his return to the team with his team mates' blessing last week.
Beale showed his value immediately upon his reinstatement, coming off the bench to score a try and set up another in a narrow home loss to the defending champion Chiefs last week.
The dominant performance raised expectations Beale would be rehabilitated in time to be picked for the Wallabies squad for the three Lions tests in June and July, but his latest transgression may put that on ice.
Australia coach Robbie Deans is set to name a preliminary squad of 25 on May 19, but will add a further six players when the Super Rugby season pauses for the international break in June.
Clarke denied Beale was at the 'last-chance saloon' after the South Africa incident and said he believed he could win back the team's trust if he could stick to his off-field programme.
"I certainly hope so," Clarke said when asked whether Beale could remain a Rebels player.
"That is what the club wants, that is what the supporters want and that is what we hope Kurtley wants as well."
Beale has previously been in hot water for off-field indiscretions, and was charged with assault last year after a scuffle with security staff outside a Brisbane bar during the Wallabies test series against Wales.
The charge was dropped after an agreement by the parties not to take the matter to court, police said last month.
The Rebels have won only two out of 10 games midway through the season and are virtually assured of missing the playoffs. (Reporting by Ian Ransom; Editing by John O'Brien)