SYDNEY (Reuters) - Kurtley Beale has no problem sticking his hand up for the Wallabies fullback slot at this year’s Rugby World Cup after being forced back there for the New South Wales Waratahs after years as a midfield back.
Beale, who has been a utility for much of his career, was given the number 15 jersey at the Sydney-based Super Rugby team after Israel Folau was stood down for triggering a social media uproar this month.
Folau’s future is likely to be decided at a conduct hearing on May 4 after both Rugby Australia and the Waratahs said they intended to terminate his contracts.
The 30-year-old Beale, who played fullback once earlier this season, was thrust back into the role last week against the Melbourne Rebels and proved a more than able replacement as the Waratahs snuck a tight win.
“I’m just really enjoying the challenge at the back,” Beale told reporters in Sydney on Friday. “Obviously it’s a position that we need to fill in at the moment.
“It may open the opportunity to pop up at fullback again (for the Wallabies) and if that does (happen), I’ll be working really hard to push myself to be able to put my hand up in this arena.”
Beale has ample international experience at fullback, starting 31 of his 83 tests in the number 15 jersey, and once had a virtual monopoly on the position until Folau came along.
Folau, who made his test debut against the British and Irish Lions on the wing in 2013, took the number 15 jersey from Beale later that season.
Beale has made just 10 appearances at fullback in his 47 tests since but could be reconsidered by Wallabies coach Michael Cheika, who lacks depth in the position behind Dane Haylett-Petty.
Beale said he felt he could be more effective in attack in the role.
“Obviously there’s a little bit more space there for myself to be out there roaming around and popping up inside and outside the playmakers,” Beale said.
“So I guess fullback just allows you to have that little bit more space out wide on the edges, and a little bit more freedom to be able to exploit some of the weaknesses in the opposition.
“And it’s obviously as job that I need to do and I’m just relishing it at the moment.”
Reporting by Greg Stutchbury in Wellington; Editing by Ian Ransom