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By ARU Media Unit
The countdown to the highly anticipated 2013 British and Irish Lions Tour to Australia is on and with the onset of the recent November international Rugby Test matches, possible match-ups between prospective Qantas Wallabies and Lions players are being deliberated.
As Warren Gatland mulls over his selection of the best from the four home unions, the Qantas Wallabies are getting a sneak peak at two of the countries that will contribute players to the Lions squad next year.
The question of who will play where and who will face who in a Tour that has been 12 Years In the Making is one of the hot topics being debated during this year’s Spring Tour.
One crucial match-up will be in the central playmaking position of fly half, which could see a thrilling one-on-one showdown between England’s Toby Flood and Australia’s Kurtley Beale.
Both are considered match winner who can pull off the incredible when most needed.
Both have also been part of record-breaking experiences at Test level.
Flood broke records in England’s 35 – 18 win over Australia in 2010, landing nine place kicks, seven penalty goals and two conversions, notching 25 points, the highest by any player in the 40-match history between England and Australia.
Not to be outdone, Beale kicked an after the siren match-winning penalty goal to seal an historic 41-39 win over South Africa in Bloemfontein in 2010, breaking a 47-year drought at altitude in South Africa.
In light of this weekend’s Cook Cup match, we take a look at these two possible fly halves who could potentially face each other when the Qantas Wallabies and the British & Irish Lions go head-to-head in the 2013.
Flood has been no stranger to the representative scene appearing in England’s Under 18 side and the England Under 21 side that achieved two Grand Slams in three seasons.
A product of the King’s School Tynemouth, Flood also represented Northumberland Schools U16 and U18, and England Students.
He made his first senior appearance for the Newcastle Falcons against the London Wasps as a nineteen-year-old in 2005 and took just 21 months before he received the call up to debut for England in the November 2006 international against Argentina at Twickenham.
After spending five seasons with Newcastle Falcons, Flood has since completed three seasons with the Leicester Tigers. He suffered a ruptured Achilles tendon in the Heineken Cup semi-final against the Cardiff Blues, bringing his 2008-09 season to an end and costing him a place in the finals.
He returned for the 2010 Six Nations Championships before obtaining four caps as a replacement on the international scene. His first start in an international Test came in 2007 against France, the first of two consecutive years in which he made ten Test appearances.
Flood also made his Rugby World Cup debut in 2007, when he ran on to the field as a late replacement for Jamie Noon. He played a significant part in England’s succession to the finals, coming off the bench to play Australia, France and the final against South Africa.
Flood successfully walked out from the shadows of fellow Newcastle Falcons mentor, Jonny Wilkinson after acting as a substitute in the first two games of the 2009 Six Nations. Flood started the away game against Ireland holding on to the fly-half jersey for the remaining two wins against France and Scotland.
Flood started the first 2010 Six Nations game against Wales at inside centre, due to an injury to Riki Flutey, but finished the Six Nations once more in possession of the England 10 jersey during the game against France, and retained it during the Australian Spring Tour.
In the 2011 Six Nations, Flood was named man of the match for a strong display against Wales at Millennium Stadium. He was also a key component in several of the tries scored against Italy. In the last 2011 World Cup in New Zealand, Flood appeared in four of England’s five matches.
Flood obtained his 50th cap in June this year in the 14-all draw against South Africa at Port Elizabeth. In the same match he scored his 50th penalty goal in Tests.
A NSW and Australian schoolboy representative between 2004 and 2006 Beale is a product of the St Josephs College Rugby nursery in Sydney. In 2006 Beale captained both the Joey’s first fifteen and the Australian Schoolboys.
Beale led ‘Joeys’ to a hat-trick of GPS titles before he was elevated to the NSW Waratahs ranks as an 18-year-old in 2007, operating largely from flyhalf. The same year, Beale made his debut for Australia A at the 2007 Pacific Nations Cup.
Although predominantly a fullback towards the end of his career with NSW, Beale revived his junior glory days as a fly half with stunning effect when he moved to the Melbourne Rebels in 2011.
Beale’s performances in his early Super Rugby days with the Waratahs led to his debut for the Qantas Wallabies. Beale was first sighted in the Test arena out of position as a wing when he made his Test debut off the bench against Wales in Cardiff at the end of 2009.
Beale’s enthusiastic work on his goal-kicking has paid off, not only with his 55 metre penalty goal to hand Australia the epic 2010 victory over South Africa at Bloemfontein, but with a further long-range penalty during this year’s final Bledisloe Cup in Brisbane.
Beale established himself at the back through 2010, with performances that saw him finish his first full international season with an IRB Player of the Year nomination. He missed just two of the record 15 Tests played by Australia through 2010, and finished as the Wallabies’ second most prolific try-scorer with seven tries, two of which came during the Cook Cup defeat against England at Twickenham.
Beale appeared in the first eight Tests of the 2011 season, scoring the title-sealing try as Australia beat New Zealand 25-20 at Brisbane to claim the Tri Nations for the first time in a decade. Beale, however, succumbed to injuries in the 2011 World Cup, playing just 2 of Australia’s 5 matches but was the third Australian back to be named the John Eales Medal winner.
Ahead of this year’s Spring Tour, 27 of Beale’s 32 Test appearances have been made from fullback, which has left him just one match shy of breaking into the top five for appearances, among Australian Test fullbacks.
What will determine where and how the two fly halves play will be the look of their team’s packs. Versatility is an asset of both, with Flood efficient as fly half and centre whilst Beale has the capability at fly half and fullback.
Beales highlights reel is memorable and captivating with numerous chip and chase and line-breaking tries, whereas Flood’s kicking ability is just as remarkable and fascinating.
Both potential fly halves stand at exactly the same height, and whilst Beale is slightly younger in age, Flood has marginally more experience.
Despite the slight differences in their Rugby careers and testimonials, both Flood and Beale are key players with the ability to add crucial points to the scoreboard and help decide the fate of who holds the Tom Richard’s trophy at the conclusion of the 2013 British & Irish Lions Tour.