Moment that convinced Schmidt Beale was worth another Wallabies crack by StuffsEarth

Estimated read time 16 min read

If you want to know when Joe Schmidt got the reminder he was after about Kurtley Beale’s worth, you must go back to May 18 against his former side, the Waratahs, at HBF Park.

After a few typical Beale balls against the Drua during the Force’s 48-10 win a week earlier, the 35-year-old’s ball to Bayley Kuenzle in the 10th minute was the moment Schmidt knew the veteran Wallaby still had something to offer the national side.

“There’s been a few times,” said Schmidt, when asked when the moment Beale burst back onto the national radar, at his inaugural Wallabies squad announcement in Sydney on Friday.

“I think one probably sticks in my mind, the Force they were playing left to right. And he looked that side. There was nothing on.

“He swept back around the other side. Ben Donaldson decided to have a crack at a gap, got the ball through to Kurtley, and Kurtley just came straight off his left shoulder.

“And that, I don’t know, sans de jure, the kind of game sense, it’s hard to coach that.

“He just sees the game. Sometimes I think as players get older, they see it, but maybe struggle to land it.

“But he’s been landing it pretty well.”

Kurtley Beale is interviewed on the field after the Force’s crushing win over the Waratahs at HBF Park, on May 18, 2024. (Photo by Paul Kane/Getty Images)

The final point is an important one.

When Beale returned after a 15-month absence from the game, many expected the 95-Test capped veteran to take some time to ease back into the game.

Indeed, Schmidt himself thought it would.

“I still think that he’s finding his feet,” Schmidt said in Perth in May.

“But I’ve coached teams against Kurtley and he’s shredded us, so I know what he’s capable of.

“I’ve seen it in the second Test here a few years ago with Ireland, he scored from about 40-metres out, ripping a decent hole in our defence, so I do know what Kurtley’s capable of.

“I do think it’ll take a little bit of time for him to find his feet, particularly because it’s a new team for him as well and I think it takes a while to slot in and get comfortable.”

But Beale’s response was emphatic.

It wasn’t faultless.

His attempted clearing kick against the Highlanders in the second-half under the roof in Dunedin showed he wasn’t at the top of his game, but that was the exception, not the norm.

Beale’s arrival in Perth saw the Force win three out of their last seven matches, with all but one of their victories, their 40-31 win over the Reds in late March, coming with the versatile back in their side.

What Beale brought was a killer’s sense in attack of when to pull the trigger and not.

He also helped free Donaldson up in attack, with the World Cup Wallaby playing some of his best rugby, including from the kicking tee, when Beale was in the side.

It was that voice and experience from fullback that saw Force coach Simon Cron give Beale a lifeline and ultimately led to Schmidt believing the Indigenous Wallaby could add something to his inexperienced and young squad.

“Feedback from the Force has been really positive about his influence,” Schmidt said.

“And even talking to the guys like Ben Donaldson, it just frees Ben up to see what he needs to see and leave the wider spaces to Kurtley to boss.

“And that synergy is something that’s really important in teams. Because it needs a bit of trust, but it also takes a bit of pressure off one person being the hub to see everything that needs to be seen.”

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Wallabies head coach Joe Schmidt speaks to the media during the Wallabies squad announcement at Rugby HQ on June 21, 2024 in Sydney. (Photo by Matt King/Getty Images)

Whether or not Beale makes Schmidt’s 23 to take on Wales remains to be seen.

Noah Lolesio and his Brumbies teammate Tom Wright are favoured to start at fly-half and fullback.

Donaldson could well enter calculations to come off the bench given his utility value.

As for Beale?

“Look, he’s in the squad and if you’re in the squad, you’re a chance to put the boots on in a 23 at some stage during the three-week period,” Schmidt said.

“Kurtley’s played well.”

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