SYDNEY Wallabies utility back Kurtley Beale will rejoin the New South Wales Waratahs for the 2018 Super Rugby season after being coaxed home from English club Wasps by national coach Michael Cheika.
Cheika, who had been in constant contact with Beale since his move to Wasps last year and offered him a more senior role in the Wallabies' set-up, said he was pleased the 28-year-old was returning home.
"It's great for Australian rugby that we have Kurtley coming back to play his footy on home soil," Cheika said.
"Even though he's only been gone a year, it's a very different Wallabies team now but he will have an important role to play for Australia and the Waratahs as well.
"He has obviously learnt a lot from his time overseas so I'll be looking for him to help the team reach higher standards this year."
Beale can line up anywhere across the backline but he looked to be playing his best rugby at inside centre before he left for England and is highly likely to take ownership of the number 12 jersey for Cheika's team.
A serious knee injury while playing for the Waratahs wiped out Beale's international season last year and delayed his debut in England.
Having played 60 tests, he was still eligible to be selected for the Wallabies while playing overseas but decided after a year in the English Midlands that he wanted to return home.
"This has been a really hard decision because of how much I've been enjoying my time at Wasps (but) I signed a one-year deal from the outset to enable me to keep my options open," Beale told the Wasps website (www.wasps.co.uk) earlier.
"I came very close to agreeing a new contract with Wasps, but I believe to achieve my international rugby aspirations I need to be back home in Australia.
"To be able to wear the Wallaby jersey again would be the greatest privilege and at this stage of my career I want to give myself the best opportunity of representing Australia in the 2019 Rugby World Cup.
"The vision Cheik (Cheika) has for the Wallabies is really exciting and is something I really want to be part of and contribute to."
Wasps are currently top of the English Premiership on 64 points after 17 matches, five points clear of Exeter, and are away to Leinster in the quarter-finals of the European Rugby Champions Cup on April 1.
(Reporting by Greg Stutchbury in Wellington; Editing by John O'Brien)